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CP 1

Next Generation
Sunshine State Standards
Chapter 5
LA.910.2.2.3. The student will organize information to show understanding or relationships
among facts, ideas, and events (e.g., representing key points within text through charting,
mapping, paraphrasing, summarizing, comparing, contrasting, or outlining).
LA.910.4.2.2. The student will record information and ideas from primary and/or secondary
sources accurately and coherently, noting the validity and reliability of these sources and attributing sources of information.
MA.912.S.3.2. Collect, organize, and analyze data sets, determine the best format for the data
and present visual summaries from the following:
line graphs
circle graphs
cumulative frequency (ogive) graphs
SC.912.N.1.1. Define a problem based on a specific body of knowledge, for example: biology,
chemistry, physics, and earth/space science, and do the following:
1.
3.
4.
7.
8.
9.

pose questions about the natural world,
examine books and other sources of information to see what is already known,
review what is known in light of empirical evidence,
pose answers, explanations, or descriptions of events,
generate explanations that explicate or describe natural phenomena (inferences),
use appropriate evidence and reasoning to justify these explanations to others

SC.912.N.1.4. Identify sources of information and assess their reliability according to the strict
standards of scientific investigation.
SC.912.N.2.2. Identify which questions can be answered through science and which questions are
outside the boundaries of scientific investigation, such as questions addressed by other ways of
knowing, such as art, philosophy, and religion.
SC.912.N.4.2. Weigh the merits of alternative strategies for solving a specific societal problem by
comparing a number of different costs and benefits, such as human, economic, and environmental.

Florida Sunshine State Standards Chapter 5

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CP 2

Overall Instructional Quality
The major tool introduces and builds science concepts as a coherent whole. It provides
opportunities to students to explore why a scientific idea is important and in which contexts
that a science idea can be useful. In other words, the major tool helps students learn
the science concepts in depth. Additionally, students are given opportunities to connect
conceptual knowledge with procedural knowledge and factual knowledge. Overall, there
is an appropriate balance of skill development and conceptual understanding.
Tasks are engaging and interesting enough that students want to pursue them. Real world
problems are realistic and relevant to students’ lives.
Problem solving is encouraged by the tasks presented to students. Tasks require students
to make decisions, determine strategies, and justify solutions.
Students are given opportunities to create and use representations to organize, record,
and communicate their thinking.
Tasks promote use of multiple representations and translations among them. Students use
a variety of tools to understand a single concept.
The science connects to other disciplines such as reading, art, mathematics, and history.
Tasks represent scientific ideas as interconnected and building upon each other.
Benchmarks from the Nature of Science standard are both represented explicitly and
integrated throughout the materials.

Florida Sunshine State Standards Chapter 5

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Running Water and Groundwater
C H A P T E R

5

Rivers are a basic link in
the hydrologic cycle and
running water is the most
important erosional agent
shaping Earth’s land surface. This is the Cheakamus River in British
Columbia. (Photo by
Randy Lincks/CORBIS)

115

water is continually on the move. and Mammoth Cave all owe their existence to the action of water on its way to the sea.1).000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Some water travels quickly via a rushing stream. unto the place from whence the rivers come. Old Faithful. Check the graph in Figure 5. from the ocean to the land and back again in an endless cycle (Figure 5.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 116 A ll the rivers run into the sea. yet the sea is not full. When viewed as part of the Earth system. and some moves more slowly below the surface.1 Early morning on a lake near the village of Val-Morin in southern Quebec.2 on the next page. streams and groundwater represent basic links in the constant cycling of the planet’s water. it nevertheless represents only a tiny fraction of Earth’s total water supply. This chapter deals with that part of the hydrologic cycle that returns water to the sea. Niagara Falls. (Photo by Patrick Frilet/Hemis/CORBIS) 116 . thither they return again. we examine the factors that influence the distribution and movement of water. Although the quantity of water in lakes is great. the Grand Canyon. In Chapter 5. FIGURE 5. Canada. (Ecclesiastes 1:7) As the perceptive writer of Ecclesiastes indicated. To a great extent. as well as look at how water sculptures the landscape.

Of this total of 380. lakes.000 km3 precipitate and fall. In all. lakes. The prePrecipitation 284. When the rate of rainfall exceeds Earth’s ability to absorb it. the air. Because ered by energy from the Sun in which the atmosphere prowe cannot clearly distinguish between the amount of water vides the vital link between the oceans and continents (Figure 5. spiro = to breathe2. the significance of 5.2 does not remain in these places indefinitely.3). then laterally.36 billion cubic Glaciers Groundwater kilometers (326 million cubic miles).009% Saline lakes and inland seas 0. Water can groundwater is obvious. groundwater. must make its way back to the ocean. and the biosphere. Therefore.3 Earth’s water balance.62% 97.000 cubic kilometers of water evaporate from the land. 36.0001% Water is just about everywhere on Earth—in the oceans. When only liquid fresh water is considered.65 percent to be divided among lakes.000 cubic kilometers of water evaporate each year and to a much lesser extent from the oceans.000 cubic kilometers fall on Earth’s land transport this moisture-laden surface. often great distances. readily change from one state of matter (solid.000 km3 and is ready to begin another. however. until water remain to erode the land during the journey back to the ocean.000 km3 A portion of the water soaks into the ground (called infiltration). streams. is stored in the global oceans (Figure 5. rivers.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. The vast bulk of it. release it into the atmosphere. or directly into the ocean.008% Soil moisture 0.2). which then relationships among different parts of the Earth system. the water content of the hydrosphere comprises about 1. liquid. The cycle shows us many critical intertrates the ground surface is absorbed by plants. finally Oceans seeping into lakes. water is constantly moving among Much of the water that infiltrates or runs off eventually rethe oceans. slowly moving downInfiltration ward. nonocean component.000 km3 tinents. This process is called The hydrologic cycle is a gigantic worldwide system powtranspiration 1trans = across. Earth’s surface. All of these reservoirs constitute Earth’s hydrosphere.000 cubic from the continents. soil. Also.000 cubic kilometers of water. Water evaporates into the atmosphere from the ocean FIGURE 5.15% 0. conditions cause the moisture to condense into clouds and to Evaporation and transpiration 60.2 Distribution of Earth’s water. while evaporation from the land (including lakes and streams) contributes 60. or gas) to another at the temperatures and pressures occurring at surface into lakes and streams. What happens to precipitaRuns off tion once it has fallen on land? 36. the atmosphere. turns to the atmosphere because of evaporation from the This unending circulation of Earth’s water supply is called soil. the abFIGURE 5.005% Atmosphere 0. about 2. glaciers. Winds kilometers fall back to the ocean. About 320. and the remaining 96. and streams. The water that falls on the conEvaporation 320. and the atmosphere (Figure 5. When we consider only the solute quantities are great.001% Stream channels 0. the solid Earth. streams.000 cubic kilometers of air.15 percent.8% 117 Freshwater lakes 0. ice sheets and glaciers represent nearly 85 percent of Earth’s fresh water.000 cubic kilometers of water. some of the water that infilthe hydrologic cycle. Since 60. and in living tissue.2 percent. about 284.2% 2.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 117 Earth as a System: The Hydrologic Cycle Earth as a System: The Hydrologic Cycle Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Running Water Oceans 97. leaving only 0. a process called runoff.2). Although the perNonocean Component (% of total hydrosphere) centages of Earth’s total water found in each of the latter sources is but a small fraction of the total inventory. Groundwater accounts for just over 14 The water found in each of the reservoirs depicted in Figure percent. the surplus water flows over the .000 km3 cipitation that falls into the Precipitation ocean has completed its cycle 96. Ice Hydrosphere sheets and glaciers account for another 2.

and the formation of valleys. sea level would rise by several dozen meters.2 million square kilometers (1. . Figure 5. but as one intersects another.2 million square miles) of the continent. and they produce a wide variety of erosional and depositional landforms. for all of the continents taken together. The drainage basin of one stream is separated from the drainage basin of another by an imaginary line called a divide (Figure 5. sheet flow begins as a layer only a few millimeters thick. (3) the soil texture. the hydrologic cycle is the continuous movement of water from the oceans to the atmosphere. as the dominant agent of erosion. .4).000 cubic kilometers—enough to cover Earth’s entire surface to a depth of about 1 meter (39 inches). the term evapotranspiration is often used for the combined effect. the 36. the average annual precipitation over Earth must be equal to the quantity of water evaporated. including many arid regions. Running Water Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Running Water Running water is of great importance to people. It is important to know that the hydrologic cycle is balanced.3 also shows Earth’s overall water balance. Each year a field of crops may transpire the equivalent of a water layer 60 centimeters (2 feet) deep over the entire field. transportation. (4) the slope of the land. Extending between the Rocky Mountains in the west and the Appalachian Mountains in the east. The same area of trees may pump twice this amount into the atmosphere. The amount of water vapor in the air at any one time is just a tiny fraction of Earth’s total water supply. Conversely. Furthermore. unconfined sheet for only a short distance. In fact. In this way.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. including (1) the intensity and duration of the rainfall. larger and larger ones form. running water has shaped much of our physical environment. Although we have always depended on running water. huge ice sheets have formed and melted on several occasions. At first the streams are small. rivers develop that carry water from a broad region to the ocean.3. from the atmosphere to the land. When precipitation falls in very cold areas—at high elevations or high latitudes—the water may not immediately soak in. the Mississippi River and its tributaries collect water from more than 3. it may become part of a snowfield or a glacier. To summarize. or evaporate. over the oceans. and irrigation. When the soil becomes saturated. and (5) the nature of the vegetative cover. The land-back-to-the-sea step is the primary action that wears down Earth’s land surface. As you will see in Chapter 6. .4). including floods. this immense volume of moving water is the single most important agent sculpting Earth’s land surface. Divides range in scale from a ridge separating two small gullies on a hillside to a continental divide.qxd 118 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 118 Running Water and Groundwater that is evaporated and the amount that is transpired by plants. in most areas. Eventually. Students Sometimes Ask . They have three important roles in the formation of a landscape: They erode the channels in which they flow. appropriately termed sheet flow. In fact. Is the amount of water vapor that plants emit into the atmosphere through transpiration a significant amount? Use this example to judge for yourself. evaporation exceeds precipitation. This would submerge many heavily populated coastal areas. over the past 2 million years. The Mississippi River has the largest drainage basin in North America. Their fertile floodplains have been favored sites for agriculture and industry since the dawn of civilization. the system must be in balance. After flowing as a thin. Runoff initially flows in broad. Drainage Basins The land area that contributes water to a river system is called a drainage basin (Figure 5. Estimates show that over North America almost six times more water is carried by moving currents of air than is transported by all the continents’ rivers. But the absolute quantities that are cycled through the atmosphere over a one-year period are immense—some 380. its source eluded us for centuries. In Figure 5. threads of current typically develop and tiny channels called rills begin to form and carry the water to a stream. each time changing the balance of the hydrologic cycle. erosion. Not until the 1500s did we realize that streams were supplied by surface runoff and underground water.000 cubic kilometers of water that annually runs off from the land to the ocean causes enormous erosion. precipitation exceeds evaporation. they transport sediments provided by weathering and slope processes. we first observe the work of water running over the surface. The amount of water that runs off in this manner rather than sinking into the ground depends on the infiltration capacity of the soil. Because the total amount of water vapor in the atmosphere remains about the same. thin sheets across the ground. river systems have shaped the varied landscape that we humans inhabit. run off. We depend on rivers for energy. which ultimately had their sources as rain and snow. Infiltration capacity is controlled by many factors. If present-day glaciers were to melt and release all their water. glaciers store large quantities of water on land. Because the level of the world ocean is not dropping. In this chapter. Then we look underground at the slow labors of groundwater as it forms springs and caverns and provides drinking water on its long migration to the sea. Instead. (2) the prior wetted condition of the soil. However. River Systems Rivers and streams can be simply defined as water flowing in a channel. or the volume of water that passes through each part of the cycle annually. which splits whole continents into enormous drainage basins. and from the land back to the sea.

What’s the difference between a stream and a river? In large river systems erosion is the dominant process in the upstream area. in geology this is not the case: The word stream is used ering and mass wasting. so that the processes occurring in one part influence the others. . which in turn is one of many that make up the drainage basin of the Mississippi River. r Cody Strong turbulent flow may exYellowstone hibit whirlpools and eddies. tween the zones of erosion and deposition is the trunk stream Bi Ri v er ArkansasRed-White n . with the r r ive ive water moving in an erratic n R R r o r ue gh de ng fashion that can be characw o Big T Po ho terized as a swirling motion. either as laminar flow or Tennessee turbulent flow. to denote channelized flow of any size. It is important to note that although the terms osition is usually located where the stream enters a large body river and stream are sometimes used interchangeably. which generally consists of mountainous or In common usage. Drainage basins and divides exist for all streams. Mississippi River Drainage Basin Streamflow Missouri River Basin Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Running Water Upper Mississippi Ohio River Basin Water may flow in one of two ways. Divides are the to erode its channel because it boundaries separating drainage basins. transportation. a zone of sediment locity of the stream. from a small creek to the The region within a river system that is dominated by depmightiest river. Here sediments accumulate to form a delta. however. Some sluggish streams flow at less than realize that some erosion. both of which are larger than a creek or a brook). and deposition occur in all three zones. Even streams that appear smooth on the surface often exhibit turbulent flow near the bottom and sides of the channel. Here small tributary streams erode the chanthan a stream. The time required for the journey depends on the veent processes dominate: a zone of erosion. In very slowLower moving streams the flow is often Mississippi laminar and the water particles move in roughly straight-line Miles City paths that parallel the stream Yellowstone River channel.4 A drainage basin is the land area drained by a stream and its tributaries. nels in which they flow and carry material provided by weathHowever. the parts of a river system are interdependent. the term of water. and a zone of sediment deposition. streamflow Billings is usually turbulent. Water makes its way to the sea under the influence of A river system consists of three main parts in which differgravity. one of these processes is usually dominant. . covers about 3 million square kilometers. M ts Students Sometimes Ask . Velocity is the distance that water travtransport. Turbulence contributes to the stream’s ability FIGURE 5. or are reriver is often preferred when describing a main stream into which worked by wave action to form a variety of coastal features. In addition. as Yellowstone River Lake well as roiling whitewater Drainage Basin rapids. The drainage basin of the Yellowstone River is one of many that contribute water to the Missouri streambed. The drainage basin of the Mississippi River. .000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. It is important to els in a unit of time. North America’s largest. these terms imply relative size (a river is larger hilly topography.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 119 Streamflow 119 that serves to transport sediments. Beseveral tributaries flow. erosion. regardless of acts to lift sediment from the size. and deposition are the processes by which rivers move Earth’s surface materials and sculpt landscapes. Taken together. transport. within each zone. River. However.

(Photo by E. but the water encounters friction as it flows. Average velocities are determined by using measurements from several spots across the stream.000 gauging stations in the United States.5 A. or a gradient 400 times steeper than the lower Mississippi (Figure 5. Maximum velocity C.qxd 120 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 120 Running Water and Groundwater Conical cups Sounding weight A. New Mexico. FIGURE 5. (2) shape. The steeper the gradient. Discharge is determined by multiplying a stream’s crosssectional area by its velocity: discharge 1m3/second2 = channel width 1meters2 * channel depth 1meters2 * velocity 1meters/second2 Table 5. whereas an irregular channel filled with boulders creates enough turbulence to slow the stream significantly.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Several factors determine the velocity of a stream.300 cubic meters (611. When a stream curves. its zone of maximum speed shifts toward its outer bank (Figure 5. This is usually measured in cubic meters per second or cubic feet per second. and (3) discharge. the world’s largest river.5C). it is nevertheless dwarfed by the mighty Amazon in South America. Continuous records of stage and discharge are collected by the U. Gaging station Maximum velocity B. size. The ability of a stream to erode and transport materials depends on its velocity. its zone of maximum speed shifts toward the outer bank. Along straight stretches. By contrast. A stream’s channel is a conduit that guides the flow of water. A smooth channel promotes a more uniform flow. Gradient and Channel Characteristics The slope of a stream channel expressed as the vertical drop of a stream over a specified distance is gradient. including (1) gradient. and roughness of the channel. Gradient varies not only among different streams but also over a particular stream’s length. Even slight changes in velocity can lead to significant changes in the load of sediment that water can transport. Along straight stretches. for example. the stream with the higher gradient would obviously have the greater velocity. Velocities are measured at gaging stations (Figure 5. The largest river in North America. the more energy available for streamflow. . size. The shape. Discharge The discharge of a stream is the volume of water flowing past a certain point in a given unit of time.S. Geological Survey at more than 7.000 cubic feet) per second. some mountain stream channels decrease in elevation at a rate of more than 40 meters per kilometer. the Amazon discharges 12 times more water than the Mississippi.6). If two streams were identical in every respect except gradient.5A). Tarbuck) B. have very low gra- dients of 10 centimeters per kilometer or less.1 lists the world’s largest rivers in terms of discharge. where friction is lowest (Figure 5. J. Portions of the lower Mississippi River. But when a stream curves. discharges an average of 17. stream velocity is highest at the center of the channel. Although this is a huge quantity of water. the highest velocities are near the center of the channel just below the surface. whereas a few rapid ones may exceed 30 kilometers per hour.5B). the Mississippi. C. Larger channels have more efficient flow because a smaller proportion of water is in contact with the channel. Fed by a vast rainy region that is nearly three-fourths the size of the conterminous United States. 1 kilometer per hour. and roughness of the channel affect the amount of friction. This station is on the Rio Grande south of Taos.

000 600. Not only do they have the ability to downcut and widen their channels but streams also have the capacity to transport the enormous World’s Largest Rivers Ranked by Discharge Drainage Area Rank 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 River Amazon Congo Yangtze Brahmaputra Ganges Yenisei Mississippi Orinoco Lena Parana Country Brazil Zaire China Bangladesh India Russia United States Venezuela Russia Argentina Average Discharge Square kilometers Square miles Cubic meters per second 5. and lowest during the dry season or during perition is abundant and then flow through arid regions may exods when high temperature increases the water losses through perience the opposite situation. concave. observations and measurements must be made. you can see that the most obvious feature of a typical profile is a constantly decreasing gradient from the head to the mouth. and removal by irriga“wet” periods are referred to as intermittent streams. depth. or during spring Streams that begin in mountainous areas where precipitasnowmelt. as you move downstream. in most humid regions.000 1. However.000 1.000 409.650 21.000 611.800 18.000 1. and velocity change in response to the areas with seasonal variations in precipitation. A profile is simply a cross-sectional view of a stream from its source area (called the head or headwaters) to its mouth.000 936.500 1. Although many local irregularities may exist. heavy rainstorm and are called ephemeral streams.000 1.400 39. more and more tributarperienced by these river runners at Lost Yak Rapids on Chile’s Rio Bio Bio. The profile shows that the gradient decreases downstream. By examining Figure 5.000 770. streamflow increased volume of water carried by the stream. Here discharge may actually evapotranspiration.000 212. Thus.6 Rapids are common in mountain streams where the gradient is steep and the channel because. Although most streamflow is turbulent.500 935.700 17. it is usually not as rough as that exstream.000 361.222.000 547. as we move downis rough and irregular.424. the overall profile is a smooth. upward curve.600 2.400. Changes from Upstream to Downstream The Work of Running Water One useful way of studying a stream is to examine its profile. Furthermore.778.1 Streams are Earth’s most important erosional agent.000 2.231.550.7. To see how other factors change in a downstream direction.000 4. not all channels maintain a condecrease downstream because of water loss due to evaporatinuous flow of water.014.500.000 660.000 3.000 526. the true because of such variables as rainfall and snowmelt. they show that in a humid region discharge increases from the head toward the mouth.000 890.000 . In arid tion.305. will tend to be highest during the wet season.800 19. This should come as no surprise FIGURE 5.000 880.590. When data are collected from several gaging stations along a river.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. additional water is added from The discharges of most rivers are far from constant.000 750.244.000. infiltration into the streambed.900 Cubic feet per second 7. the point downstream where the river empties into another TABLE 5.500 14.6).qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 121 The Work of Running Water 121 water body.000 340.000 614. In stream’s width. The Colorado River in the southwestern United States climates many streams carry water only occasionally after a is such an example.000 15.400 17.059.942.300 2.000 1.000 2. Streams that exhibit flow only during tion. This is the groundwater supply.300 17. (Photo by Carr Clifton) ies contribute water to the main channel (Figure 5.000 700.

or rills. the average figure for the world’s rivers is estimated at 115 to 120 ppm. which in time may evolve into larger gullies (see Figure 4. These particles can be any size. heavier rock Mt.7 A longitudinal profile is a cross-section along the length of a stream. The rotational motion of swirling pebbles acts like a drill to create potholes. (2) in suspension (suspended load). Moreover. ried in solution is highly variLongitudinal profile of California’s Kings River. dumping even more loose debris into the water to be carried downstream.8). from large boulders in very fast-flowing waters to sand and gravel-size particles in somewhat slower flow. Whitney debris. A stream’s ability to erode bedrock is greatly enhanced by the particles it carries. When the ground is saturated. all streams transport some rock material. lighter material is carried more rapidly than coarser. it can dislodge particles from the channel and lift them into the moving water. It originates in the Sierra Nevada and flows westward into the San Joaquin Valley. rainwater begins to flow downslope. (Photo by Tom Till Photography) .000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. able and is most abundant in humid areas where limestone quantities of sediment that are delivered to the stream by sheet and other relatively soluble rock forms the bedrock. FIGURE 5. and groundwater. with a steeper gradient upstream and a gentler gradient downstream. In addition to eroding unconsolidated materials. Head 3 2 Transportation Longitudinal profile 1 Mouth 0 0 50 100 Distance (km) 150 S i e r r a King s Ri v er Fresno. On occasion. In this manner. 100). Depending on the nature of the rock material.20 on p. p.8 Potholes in the bed of a small stream in Cataract Falls State Park. Although some rivers may have a dissolved load of 1. which knock sediment particles loose (see Figure 4. the banks of the channel may be undercut.000 ppm or more. Erosion A stream’s ability to accumulate and transport soil and weathered rock is aided by the work of raindrops. the force of running water swiftly erodes poorly consolidated materials on the bed and sides of a stream channel. water (parts per million. and (3) sliding or rolling along the bottom (bed load). pebbles caught in swirling eddies can act like “drills” and bore circular potholes into the channel floor (Figure 5. Note the concaveThe quantity of material carupward curve of the profile. Just as the particles of grit on sandpaper can wear away a piece of wood.qxd 122 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 Page 122 Running Water and Groundwater 4 Elevation (km) 07:15 PM so too can the sand and gravel carried by a stream abrade a bedrock channel. the hydraulic force of streamflow can also cut a channel into solid bedrock. transporting some of the material it has dislodged.19. Eventually much of the amount of dissolved load is small and therefore is exthis material is dropped by the water to create a variety of depressed as parts of dissolved material per million parts of positional features. or ppm). FIGURE 5. its ability to erode is greatly enhanced by the increase in water volume. On barren slopes the sheet flow will often erode small channels. Usually flow. mass wasting. 100). Indiana. the stream N e v a d a load consists of material (1) in solution (dissolved load). CA Regardless of size. Once the surface flow reaches a stream. Streams also sort the solid sediment they transport because finer. When the flow of water is sufficiently strong. Dissolved Load Most of the dissolved load is brought to a stream by groundwater and is dispersed throughout the flow.

if the velocity triples. and larger and larger particles are set in motion.9 The suspended load is clearly visible because it gives this flooding river a “muddy” In terms of the erosional work acappearance. a portion of the bed load is deposited and some sediment that had been suspended changes to moving as bed load. Therefore. Usually only fine particles consisting of silt and clay can be carried this way. The greater the volume of water flowing in a stream. and the farther it will be carried downstream with the flowing water. Precipitation occurs only when the chemistry of the water changes. because the transport of sediment as bed load or as suspended load changes frequently.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. In just a few days or perhaps a few hours a stream in flood stage can erode and transport more sediment than it does during months of normal flow. Flat grains sink through water more slowly than do spherical grains. First. FIGURE 5. Conversely. Second. during a flood. The larger the particle. outlined by trees on either bank. Indeed. With an increase in velocity. it goes wherever the stream goes. and the increase in velocity results in greater competence. sliding.J. depending on their shapes. the grinding action of the downtown Dallas. the total quantity of material carried in suspension increases dramatically. the greatest erosion complished by a downcutting and sediment transport occur during these high-water periods. and so forth. and dense particles fall toward the bottom more rapidly than do less dense particles. Competence and Capacity Streams vary in their ability to carry a load. Bed Load A portion of a stream’s load of solid material consists of sediment that is too large to be carried in suspension. the more rapidly it settles toward the stream bed. however. sand and even gravel-size particles are transported as well. This occurs as particles are propelled upward by collisions or lifted by the current and then carried downstream a short distance until gravity pulls them back to the bed of the stream. Sediment moving by saltation 1saltare = to leap2 appears to jump or skip along the stream bed. These coarser particles move along the bottom (bed) of the stream and constitute the bed load.9). the competence of a stream measures the maximum size of particles it is capable of transporting. During floods both capacity and competency increase. when velocity decreases. its competence increases four times. (Photo by G. the longer a sediment particle will stay in suspension. With rising velocity the water becomes more turbulent. The increase in discharge results in a greater capacity. The stream’s velocity determines its competence. 123 viewed cautiously. The bed load usually does not exceed 10 percent of a stream’s total load. the capacity of a stream is the maximum load it can carry. Suspended Load Most large rivers carry the largest part of their load in suspension. The channel in which the river is usually confined is bed load is of great importance. the visible cloud of sediment suspended in the water is the most obvious portion of a stream’s load (Figure 5. McCarthy/Dallas Morning News/CORBIS) The particles that make up the bed load move along the bottom by rolling. regardless of velocity. the greater is its capacity for hauling sediment. which greatly increases a stream’s velocity. as can be verified by anyone whose home has been a site for the deposition of this material. in late June 2007. Once material is in solution. In addition to size. The flooding Trinity River near stream.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 123 The Work of Running Water The velocity of streamflow has essentially no effect on a stream’s ability to carry its dissolved load. The floodwaters are confined by artificial levees. Also. Particles that are too large or heavy to move by saltation either roll or slide along the bottom. Estimates of a stream’s bed load should be . This explains how large boulders that seem immovable can be transported during a flood. The slower the settling velocity and the stronger the turbulence. By now it should be clear why the greatest erosion and transportation of sediment occur during floods (Figure 5. The type and amount of material carried in suspension are controlled by two factors: the velocity of the water and the settling velocity of each sediment grain. but during a flood. Their ability is determined by two criteria. and saltation. Texas. its competence increases nine times. The proportions of each depend on the characteristics of streamflow at any time and these may fluctuate over short intervals. Settling velocity is defined as the speed at which a particle falls through a still fluid. The capacity of a stream is directly related to its discharge. parts of the bed load are thrown into suspension. If the velocity of a stream doubles.9). the shape and specific gravity of particles also influence settling velocity.

Such streams (often mountain streams) typically transport coarse particles that actively abrade the bedrock channel. its zone of maximum speed shifts toward the outer bank. winding nature of a stream flowing in a bedrock channel. called sorting. streams tend to exhibit a winding or irregular pattern rather than flowing in a straight channel. the general term for any stream-deposited sediment. Bedrock channels often alternate between relatively gently sloping segments where alluvium tends to accumulate. some occur on the valley floor adjacent to the channel. Alluvial Channels Many stream channels are composed of loosely consolidated sediment (alluvium) and therefore can undergo major changes in shape because the sediments are continually being eroded. a stream is able to shift its channel. The channel pattern exhibited by streams cutting into bedrock is controlled by the underlying geologic structure.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Stream Channels A basic characteristic of streamflow that distinguishes it from sheet flow is that it is usually confined to a channel. As streamflow drops below the setting velocity of a certain particle size. By eroding the outer bank and depositing material on the inside of the bend. and some exist at the mouth of the stream. A stream channel can be thought of as an open conduit that consists of the streambed and banks that act to confine the flow except during floods. stream transport provides a mechanism by which solid particles of various sizes are separated. (Point bar photo by Carr Clifton. Thus. Although somewhat oversimplified. where the gradient is usually steepest. cut bank photos by P. A. The material deposited by a stream is called alluvium. largest particles first. Geological Survey) Cut bank in March 1965 Point bar Deposition of point bar Erosion of cut bank Maximum velocity Cut bank in January 1965 . This process. Glancy. As its velocity decreases. The point bar shown here is on the Missouri River in North Dakota. the channel is called an alluvial channel. U. We will consider the nature of these features later. explains why particles of similar size are deposited together.qxd 124 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 124 Running Water and Groundwater Deposition Whenever a stream slows down. we can divide stream channels into two types. the situation reverses. Potholes are often visible evidence of the erosional forces at work. and redeposited. Anyone who has gone on a whitewater rafting trip has observed the steep. The major factors affecting the shapes of these channels is the average size of the sediment FIGURE 5. Bedrock Channels In their headwaters. Bedrock channels are those in which the streams are actively cutting into solid rock.S. Even when flowing over rather uniform bedrock. In contrast. and steeper segments where bedrock is exposed. A point bar is deposited where the water on the inside of a meander slows. when the bed and banks are composed mainly of unconsolidated sediment. These steeper areas may contain rapids or occasionally a waterfall. sediment in that category begins to settle out. transported. Many different depositional features are composed of alluvium. many rivers cut into bedrock.10 When a stream meanders. The black and white photos show erosion of a cut bank along the Newaukum River in Washington State. its competence is reduced and sediment begins to drop out. Recall that each particle size has a settling velocity. Some occur within stream channels.

12 Oxbow lakes occupy abandoned meanders. The lower Mississippi River exhibits a channel of this type. oxbow lakes gradually become swampy meander scars. the river may erode through the narrow neck of land to the next loop (Figure 5. In time. most of the erosion in such channels occurs on the outside of the meander. Gradually the neck of land between the meanders is narrowed. the abandoned bend is called an oxbow lake (Figure 5.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 125 Stream Channels being transported. This allows the next meander upstream to “catch up” and overtake it. (Photo by Michael Collier) .12). In this manner. meanders migrate laterally by eroding the outside of the bends and depositing on the inside. As they fill with sediment. while expending the least amount of energy.11). as shown in Figure 5. In addition to migrating laterally. especially during periods of high water. FIGURE 5.10). Because the outside of a meander is a zone of active erosion.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Because of the cohesiveness of consolidated mud. the banks of stream channels carrying fine particles tend to resist erosion. these streams are said to be braided. The debris acquired by the stream at the cut bank moves downstream with the coarser material generally being deposited as point bars in zones of decreased velocity on the insides of meanders. because of its shape. where velocity and turbulence are greatest. Because these channels have an interwoven appearance. Aerial view of an oxbow lake created by the meandering Green River near Bronx. and the discharge. the size and type of sediment being carried help determine the nature of the stream channel. These streams M flow in relatively deep. As a consequence.11. shorter channel segment is called a cutoff and. Eventually. the bends in a channel also migrate down the valley. Braided channels form where a large proportion of the stream’s load consists of coarse material (sand and gravel) and the stream has a highly variable 125 Neck Oxbow lake Plugs with silt and clay FIGURE 5. Thus.11 Formation of a cutoff and oxbow lake. smooth channels E and transport mainly mud (silt and clay). Braided Streams Some streams consist of a complex network of converging and diverging channels that thread their way among numerous islands or gravel bars (Figure 5. Wyoming. Sometimes the downstream migration of a meander is slowed when it reaches a more resistant material. This occurs because erosion is more effective on the downstream (downslope) side of the meander. the channel gradient. the outside bank is undermined. Two common types of alluvial channels are meandering channels and braided channels. Alluvial channel patterns reflect a stream’s ability to transport its load at a uniform rate. Meandering Streams Streams that transport much of their load in susT pension generally move in sweeping I bends called meanders.13). it is often referred to as the cut bank (Figure 5. The new.

a lake. or another stream. it limits the amount of downcutting upstream. Resistant bed . Usually the laterally shifting channels completely rework most of the surface sediments each year. Until the ledge of hard rock is eliminated. When flow is sluggish. Here. grained particles that are transProfile of stream ported as suspended load in a Ultimate base level if resistant rock deep. Thus. In summary. and that limit is called base level.14 A resistant layer of rock can act as a local (temporary) base level. In some braided streams. By condid not exist Local base Waterfalls trast.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 126 FIGURE 5. the stream is unable to move all of the sediment and therefore deposits the coarsest material as bars that force the flow to split and follow several paths. large amounts of ice-eroded sediment are dumped into the meltwater streams flowing away from the glacier. the lake prevents the stream from eroding below its level at any point upstream from the lake. Because the bank material is readily erodable. hence. smooth channel. resistant layers of rock. braided channels are wide and shallow. Ultimate base level Profile of stream adjusted to ultimate base level Sea C. Any change in base level will cause a corresponding readjustment of stream activities. Upstream from the dam the gradient is reduced. Two general types of base level are recognized. wide. the reservoir that forms behind it raises the base level of the stream (Figure 5. because the streams are approaching the elevation below which they cannot erode their beds. Base level is defined as the Rapids Local base level Resistant bed Sea B. Deposition will be the dominant process until the stream’s gradient increases sufficiently to transport its load. There is a lower limit to how deep a stream can erode. Essentially this is the level at which the mouth of a stream enters the ocean. Ultimate base level Base Level and Stream Erosion Streams cannot endlessly erode their channels deeper and deeper. it is nevertheless a key concept in the study of stream activity. because it is the lowest level to which stream erosion could lower the land. because the outlet of the lake can cut downward and drain the lake.13 Braided stream choked with sediment near the terminus of a melting glacier. thereby transforming the entire streambed.14 acts as a temporary base level. shallow braided level channels develop where coarseResistant bed grained alluvium is transported Sea as bedload. This builds up its channel. Because the load consists largely of finedurable layer is eroded more slowly. the layer of resistant rock at the lip of the waterfall in Figure 5. its sediment-transporting ability. Temporary. and main streams that act as base levels for their tributaries. the lake is only a temporary hindrance to the stream’s ability to downcut its channel. When a dam is built along a stream. the bars have built up to form islands that are anchored by vegetation. The stream. will deposit sediment. it will limit the amount of downcutting upstream. when a stream enters a lake. however. meandering channels develop where the FIGURE 5. Sea level is considered the ultimate base level. discharge. lowering the stream’s velocity and. For example. (Photo by Bradford Washburn) lowest elevation to which a stream can erode its channel. base levels include lakes. One circumstance in which braided streams form is at the end of a glacier where there is a large seasonal variation in discharge.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. or local.15). Base level accounts for the fact that most stream profiles have low gradients near their mouths. Although the idea is relatively straightforward. its velocity quickly approaches zero and its ability to erode ceases. In a similar manner. However. now having too little energy to transport its entire load. A.

narrow valleys having nearly vertical walls are common. The sides of most valleys are shaped by a combination of weathering. downcutting is the dominant activity. Waterfalls are places where the stream makes an abrupt vertical drop. New stream profile formed by deposition of sediment New base level Reservoir Sea Dam B. and the hydraulic power of fast-moving water. Resistant beds create rapids by acting as a temporary base level upstream while allowing downcutting to continue downstream. slowly lowers the streambed. In time erosion usually eliminates the resistant rock. Stream valleys can be divided into two general types— narrow. flatter area that is partially or totally occupied by the stream channel. with the aid of weathering and mass wasting. and mass wasting. This reduces the stream’s velocity and leads to deposition and a reduction of the gradient upstream from the reservoir.16 V-shaped valley of the Yellowstone River. overland flow. the stream’s base level is raised. Thus it includes the valley bottom. Original profile FIGURE 5. which is the lower. In some arid regions. Abrasion caused by bed load sliding and rolling along the bottom. and the sloping valley walls that rise above the valley bottom on both sides. A classic example of a V-shaped valley is located in the section of Yellowstone River shown in Figure 5. V-shaped valleys and wide valleys with flat floors— with many gradations between. As a result. The result is usually a V-shaped valley with 127 steep sides. (Photo by Art Wolfe) .qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 127 Shaping Stream Valleys Profile of stream adjusted to base level Ultimate base level Sea A. A stream valley consists not only of the channel but also the surrounding terrain that directly contributes water to the stream.16. Both occur where the stream’s gradient increases significantly. Shaping Stream Valleys Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Running Water Streams. The most prominent features of a V-shaped valley are rapids and waterfalls. The rapids and waterfalls indicate that the river is vigorously downcutting. where weathering is slow and where rock is particularly resistant. a situation usually caused by variations in the erodability of the bedrock into which a stream channel is cutting. shape the landscape through which they flow. Most stream valleys are much broader at the top than is the width of their channel at the bottom. Valley Deepening When a stream’s gradient is steep and the channel is well above base level.15 When a dam is built and a reservoir forms. FIGURE 5. streams continuously modify the valleys that they occupy. This would not be the case if the only agent responsible for eroding valleys were the streams flowing through them.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151.

Here. the river plunges 979 meters (3. Utah. One of two events could have occurred. The continuous lateral erosion caused by shifting of the stream’s meanders produces an increasingly broader. (Photo by Michael Collier) Changing Base Level and Incised Meanders We usually expect a stream with a highly meandering course to be on a floodplain in a wide valley. . Over time the floodplain will widen to the point that the stream is only actively eroding the valley walls in a few places. Floodplain well developed C.18). In fact. An example of the first circumstance happened during the Ice Age when large quantities of water were withdrawn T from the ocean and locked up I in glaciers on land. who first sighted the falls from the air in 1933. causing rivers flowing into the ocean to begin to downcut.qxd 128 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 128 Running Water and Groundwater Students Sometimes Ask .000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Either base level dropped or the land upon which the river was flowing was uplifted.6 mile). the distance from one valley wall to another can exceed 100 miles. The result M was that sea level (ultimate E base level) dropped. flat valley floor covered with alluvium. the meandering river adjusted to being higher above base level by downcutting. The result is a widening of the valley as the river cuts away first at one bank and then at the other (Figure 5. . .17). Regional uplift of the land. Valley Widening Once a stream has cut its channel closer to base level. Such meanders are called incised 1incisum = to cut into2 meanders (Figure 5. this activity ceased at the close of the Ice Age when ice sheets melted and sea level rose. Named for American aviator Jimmie Angel. is appropriately named because when a river overflows its banks during flood stage. Narrow V-shaped valley A. Of course. What’s the highest waterfall in the world? The world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall is Angel Falls on Venezuela’s Churun River. called a floodplain. it inundates the floodplain. as the Colorado Plateau was gradually uplifted. downward erosion becomes less dominant.18 Incised meanders of the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park. At this point the stream’s channel takes on a meandering pattern. FIGURE 5. narrow valleys. FIGURE 5. the meanders probably developed on the floodplain of a stream that was relatively near base level. certain rivers exhibit meandering channels that flow in steep. and more of the stream’s energy is directed from side to side. This feature. or more than 0. the second cause for incised meanders. a change in base level caused the stream to begin downcutting. However. is exemplified by the Colorado Plateau in the southwestern United States.17 Stream eroding its floodplain. Site of erosion Site of deposition B. in large rivers such as the lower Mississippi River valley. Then.212 feet. How do such features form? Originally.

After numerous shifts of the channel. as the plateau was gradually uplifted. Most deltas are characterized by these shifting channels that act in an opposite way to that of tributaries. Marshes called Distributaries backswamps result.000 to 6. has been built by the Mississippi in the last 500 years. natural levees. These include deltas. 129 Rather than carrying water into the main channel. Depositional Landforms As indicated earlier. a delta may grow into a rough triangular shape like the Greek letter delta 1¢2. streams also create other depositional features that have a somewhat longer life span. however. more direct path to the Gulf of Mexico. for which it is named. N. are only temporary.19). As the water spreads out over the valley. and the resulting deposits form a delta (Figure 5. Growth of a simple delta. the gradient is reduced. The present subdelta.4. however. As the delta grows outward.20 shows that portion of the Mississippi delta that has been built over the past 5.000 years. often has to flow parallel to the river until it can breach the levee. Structure of a simple delta that forms in the relatively quiet waters of a lake. As a stream extends its channel. its velocity drops abruptly. the river seeks a shorter. Rochester. whenever a stream’s velocity slows.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. called distributaries.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 129 Depositional Landforms Here. it begins to deposit some of the sediment it is carrying. numerous meandering rivers adjusted to being higher above base level by downcutting (Figure 5. Natural levees are built by successive floods over many years. Each formed when the river left its existing channel in favor of a shorter. Note. Inc. These channel deposits are most often composed of sand and gravel and are commonly referred to as bars. This illustration shows the main channel dividing into several smaller ones. Figure 5. The natural levees of the lower Mississippi rise 6 meters (20 feet) above the floodplain.Atributary Foreset beds stream that cannot enter a river because levees block the way A. This uneven during flood stage the river is diverted to a higher-gradient route. p. which parallels the Mississippi for over 300 kilometers (about B. New Orleans rests where there was ocean less than 5. The delta of the Mississippi River is one example (see Box 5. 119). Old. It resulted from the accumulation of huge quantities of sediment derived from the vast region drained by the river and its tributaries (see Figure 5.19 A.18).19B. leaving coarse sediment deposited in strips bordering the channel. This circumstance eventually causes the channel to become choked with sediment deposited from the slowing water.000 years ago. As you can see.Y. 190 miles).) duces the very gentle slope of the natural levee. a lesser amount of FIGURE 5. that many deltas do not exhibit the idealized shape. Also recall that streams continually pick up sediment in one part of their channel and redeposit it downstream. higher-gradient route to base level. .. When a stream overflows its banks. fine sediment is deposited over B. Many large rivers have deltas extending over thousands of square kilometers. The area behind the levee is Lake characteristically poorly drained for the obvious reason that water Topset beds cannot flow up the levee and into the river. forming a new distributary. distribution of material proabandoned distributaries are gradually invaded by aquatic vegetation and fill with sediment. and alluvial fans. Frequently. its velocity immediately diminishes. called a bird-foot delta because of the configuration of its distributaries. Deltas When a stream enters the relatively still waters of an ocean or lake. distributaries carry water away from the main channel. In addition to sand and gravel bars. As a consequence. Such features. Natural Levees Some rivers occupy valleys with broad floodplains and build natural levees that parallel their channels on both banks (Figure 5. for the material will be picked up again and eventually carried to the ocean.21). the valley floor. as illustrated in Figure 5. the stream’s gradient continually lessens. Bottomset beds Such streams are called yazoo tributaries after the Yazoo River.1). the delta is actually a series of seven coalescing subdeltas. Differences in the configurations of shorelines and variations in the nature and strength of wave activity result in many shapes. The individual subdeltas interfinger and partially cover one another to produce a very complex structure. (After Ward’s Natural Science Establishment. Today.

R. Because the ground next to the stream channel is higher than the adjacent floodplain. R. Van Lopik) FIGURE 5.qxd 130 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 130 Running Water and Groundwater fala Atcha Baton Rouge ya Ri v er 2 New Orleans 2 4 6 1 3 5 4 7 Gulf of Mexico 7 FIGURE 5. The numbers indicate the order in which the subdeltas were deposited. back swamps and yazoo tributaries may develop. the present course will shift and follow the path of the Atchafalaya River. The present birdfoot delta (number 7) represents the activity of the past 500 years. Floodplain Valley wall Coarse sediments deposited Fine sediments deposited Back swamp Floodstage Yazoo tributary Developing natural levee Coarse sediments Fine sediments Post flood Floodplain Coarse sediments deposited Floodstage Natural levees Natural levee Natural levee after numerous floods Fine sediments deposited . The inset on the left shows the point where the Mississippi may someday break through (arrow) and the shorter path it would take to the Gulf of Mexico.000 years. The diagrams on the right show the sequence of development. the Mississippi River has built a series of seven coalescing subdeltas. Kolb and J.000 to 6. (Image courtesy of JPL/Cal Tech/NASA) Without ongoing human efforts.21 Natural levees are gently sloping deposits that are created by repeated floods.20 During the past 5. (After C.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151.

was killed by encroaching salt water in Terrebonne Parish. Both the wetlands and the barrier islands have formed as a result of the shifting of the Mississippi River during the past 7.900 square miles) of coastal land between 1932 and 2000. Geological Survey. be Saved?” The New Yorker. Another factor contributing to wetland decline is the fact that the delta is laced with 13.A). the processes of compaction.S. with the arrival of people. The effects have been straightforward. Because not enough sediment is added to offset these forces. and wave erosion continue. (Photo by Robert Caputo/Aurora Photos) Before Europeans settled the delta. it accounts for 80 percent of the wetland loss. Meanwhile. the river is forced to carry its load to the deep waters at the mouth. decreasing by approximately 50 percent over the past 100 years. *See “Louisiana’s Vanishing Wetlands: Going. What if nothing is done? State and federal officials estimate that costs of inaction could exceed $100 billion. By nature.” in Science. the coastal wetlands of Louisiana are disappearing at an alarming rate. February 27. pp. the Mississippi River regularly overflowed its banks in seasonal floods. this was observed firsthand during the extraordinary 2005 hurricane season when hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated portions of the Gulf Coast.** Unfortunately. and bayous. this relative balance between formation and destruction changed—the rate at which the delta and its wetlands were destroyed accelerated and now greatly exceeds the rate of formation. The huge quantities of sediment that were deposited renewed the soil and kept the delta from sinking below sea level.000 square kilometers (1. as sediment accumulated and built the delta in one area. and the adjacent barrier islands are dynamic features. 15 September 2000. However. subsidence.800 to 4. Geological Survey estimates that restoring Louisiana’s coasts will require about $14 billion over the next 40 years. However. as well as spawning areas and valuable habitats for fish. tidal flats.500 square kilometers (700 to 1. These artificial openings to the sea allow salty Gulf waters to flow far inland. The levees prevent sediment and fresh water from being dispersed into the wetlands. The problem has been aggravated by a decline in the sediment transported by the Mississippi. Going . Also see Elizabeth Kolbert.S. Louisiana’s wetlands are sheltered from the wave action of hurricanes and winter storms by low-lying offshore barrier islands. the size of the delta and the extent of its wetlands gradually shrink. The invasion of saltwater and tidal action causes massive “brownouts” or marsh die-offs (Figure 5. Over the millennia. Although Louisiana contains 40 percent of the wetlands in the lower 48 states. 46–57. pp. Artificial levees were constructed to contain the rising river during flood stage. . Moreover.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151.000 miles) of navigation channels and canals. its wetlands. Vol.* Global climate change could increase the severity of the problem because rising sea level and stronger tropical storms accelerate rates of coastal erosion. “Watermark—Can Southern Louisiana. The dependence of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and offshore islands on the Mississippi River and its distributaries as a direct source of sediment leaves them vulnerable to changes in the river system. The state continues to lose between 65 and 91 square kilometers (25 to 35 square miles) each year. 1860–63.A This group of dead cypress trees. The U.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 131 Depositional Landforms 131 BOX 5. see “Some Possible Consequences of Global Warming” in Chapter 20. the reliance on barrier islands for protection from storm waves leaves coastal wetlands vulnerable when these narrow offshore islands are eroded. Accord- ing to the U. with settlement came flood-control efforts and the desire to maintain and improve navigation on the river. the zones of delta growth and destruction also shifted. At this rate another 1. Over time the levees were extended all the way to the mouth of the Mississippi to keep the channel open for navigation. Why are Louisiana’s wetlands shrinking? FIGURE 5. They are rich in wildlife and provide nesting grounds and important stopovers for waterfowl and migratory birds. . Whenever the river shifted. . erosion and subsidence caused losses elsewhere.1  PEOPLE AND THE ENVIRONMENT Coastal Wetlands Are Vanishing on the Mississippi Delta Coastal wetlands form in sheltered environments that include swamps. Louisiana.750 square miles) will vanish under the Gulf of Mexico by the year 2050. known as a ghost forest. coastal marshes. A substantial portion of the reduction results from trapping of sediment in large reservoirs created by dams built on tributaries to the Mississippi. 289. Today. The delta of the Mississippi River in Louisiana contains about 40 percent of all coastal wetlands in the lower 48 states. 2006. Instead.000 kilometers (8. Understanding and modifying the impact of people is a necessary basis for any plan to reduce the loss of wetlands in the Mississippi delta.000 years. Louisiana lost nearly 5. the delta. **“For more on this possibility.

22C illustrates a rectangular pattern.qxd 132 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 132 Running Water and Groundwater like. it does not control the pattern of streamflow. In fact. Figure 5. the pattern is determined chiefly by the direction of slope of the land. Dendritic. and surface . Radial. Floods are among the most deadly and most destrucan apex at the mouth of the steep valley.22B). C.22 Drainage patterns. B.or fan-shaped accumulation.22A). D. in gradient combined with the change from a narrow channel of a mountain stream to less confined channels at the base of the mountains. while fine material part of the natural behavior of streams. the word dendritic means “tree- Causes of Floods Rivers flood because of the weather. Exceptional rains caused the devastating floods in the upper Mississippi River Valley during the summer of 1993 (Figure 5. a recAlluvial fans typically develop where a high-gradient stream tangular pattern in which tributary streams are nearly paralleaves a narrow valley in mountainous terrain and comes out lel to one another and have the appearance of a garden trellis. Volcano Drainage Patterns Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Running Water Drainage systems are networks of streams that together form distinctive patterns. This pattern typically rock develops on isolated volcanic cones and domal uplifts. primarily in response to the kinds of rock on which the streams developed or the structural pattern of faults and folds. Alluvial Fans Figure 5.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. They are. coarse mative of all geologic hazards. nevertheless. p. The most commonly encountered drainage pattern is the dendritic pattern (Figure 5. Rectangular and/or faults. topography. Trellis.23). Because the surface material is essentially uniform in its resistance to erosion. simply terial is dropped near the apex of the fan. Alluvial fans form in response to the abrupt drop of resistant and less-resistant rock. Because these structures are eroded more FIGURE 5. As illustrated by Figure ceeds the capacity of its channel. This pattern develops when the bedrock is crissD. 177).22D illustrates a trellis drainage pattern. Radial A. is carried toward the base of the deposit. Flash floods occur with little warning and can be deadly because they produce a rapid rise in water levels and can have a devastating flow velocity. Dendritic When streams diverge from Valleys cut in a central area like spokes from less-resistant the hub of a wheel. flash floods are more limited in extent. the pattern rock Ridges of is said to be radial (Figure resistant 5. easily than unbroken rock. Unlike the extensive regional floods just mentioned. Trellis crossed by a series of joints C. Rapid melting of snow in the spring and/or major storms that bring heavy rains over a large region cause most floods. Rectangular. it overflows its banks as a 6. Several factors influence flash flooding. This pattern of irregularly branching tributary streams resembles the branching pattern of a deciduous tree. A. suddenly onto a broad. Rather. The nature of a drainage pattern can vary greatly from one type of terrain to another. flat plain or valley floor (see Figure This pattern forms in areas underlain by alternating bands 6. B.” The dendritic pattern forms where the underlying material is relatively uniform. Among them are rainfall intensity and duration.30. Usually. their geometric pattern guides the directions of valleys. in which many right-angle bends can be seen. The extensive 1997 flood along the Red River of the north is a recent example of an event triggered by rapid snowmelt. the surface of the fan slopes outward in a broad arc from flood.28. The sudden drop in velocity causes the Floods and Flood Control stream to dump its load of sediment quickly in a distinctive When the discharge of a stream becomes so great that it excone.

© 2006. Pennsylvania. Exceptional rains produced the wettest spring and early summer of the twentieth century in the upper Mississippi River basin. They are designed to contain floods of a certain mag- *C. 1993 Mississippi River Missouri River FIGURE 5. For example. floodwalls at St.geoeye. Artificial levees are usually easy to distinguish from natural levees because their slopes are much steeper.www. Perhaps a better term would be the “1-in-100-chance flood. Vol. concrete floodwalls are sometimes constructed that serve the same purpose as artificial levees. Many artificial levees were not built to withstand periods of extreme flooding. These structures are built for flood protection. Louis is just south of their confluence. p. D. (Photos courtesy of GeoEye.000 lives. which is slightly less than the area of the state of Ohio. a recent study indicated that the area of impervious surfaces in the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) amounts to more than 112. displacing at least 50. Such structures do not always provide the flood protection that was intended.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 133 Floods and Flood Control July 4. The truth is that an uncommonly big flood can happen any year. If a larger flood occurs. et al. In some locations. . A second dam failure occurred there again in 1977 and caused 77 fatalities.” in EOS. when the upper Mississippi and many of its tributaries experienced record floods (Figure 5. 24. 1988 Mississippi River 133 nitude. Elvidge. the dam or levee is overtopped. . Flood Control Missouri River July 18. Louis. A prime example is the failure of a dam or an artificial levee. American Geophysical Union. The phrase “100-year flood” is really a statistical designation. created a bottleneck for the river that led to increased flooding upstream of the city. streets. What does that mean? The phrase “100-year flood” is misleading because it leads people to believe that such an event happens only once every 100 years. 85. This lowers the flood crest by spreading it out over a longer time span. Transactions. nearly 14 million acres were inundated.) conditions. Constructed Area Approaches the Size of Ohio. If the dam or levee fails or is washed out.S.600 square kilometers (nearly 44. Urban areas are susceptible to flash floods because a high percentage of the surface area is composed of impervious surfaces such as roofs. These most common of stream-containment structures have been used since ancient times and continue to be used today. flood that took some 3. thousands of dams have been built on nearly every Students Sometimes Ask. levee failures were numerous in the Midwest during the summer of 1993. The bursting of a dam in 1889 on the Little Conemaugh River caused the devastating Johnstown. 15 June 2004. Sometimes when there is a major flood. and river channelization.24).000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. especially urban areas. the water behind it is released to become a flash flood. The upper image shows the rivers during a drought that occurred in summer 1988. “U.23 Satellite views of the Missouri River flowing into the Mississippi River. In all. Flood-Control Dams Flood-control dams are built to store floodwater and then let it out slowly. The lower image depicts the peak of the record-breaking 1993 flood. indicating that there is a 1-in-100 chance that a flood this size will happen during any year.000 people. No. it is described as a 100-year flood.* Human interference with the stream system can worsen or even cause floods. the building of floodcontrol dams. Engineering efforts include the construction of artificial levees. .” Many flood designations are reevaluated and changed over time as more data are collected or when a river basin is altered in a way that affects the flow of water. During that same event. St. and parking lots where runoff is very rapid. Since the 1920s.com. In fact.000 square miles). Dams and urban development are examples of some human influences in a basin that affect floods. Artificial Levees Artificial levees are earthen mounds built on the banks of a river to increase the volume of water the channel can hold. Several strategies have been devised to eliminate or lessen the catastrophic effects of floods. Missouri. Mountainous areas are susceptible because steep slopes can quickly funnel runoff into narrow canyons. All rights reserved. 233.

For example. By increasing velocity. By identifying high-risk areas. many scientists and engineers advocate a nonstructural approach to flood control. They suggest that an alternative to artificial levees. Yet people’s perceptions of groundwater are often unclear and incorrect.qxd 134 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 134 Running Water and Groundwater major river in the United States.S. Army Corps of Engineers has created many artificial cutoffs on the Mississippi for the purpose of increasing the efficiency of the channel and reducing the threat of flooding. historic sites. and scenic valleys. Many dams have significant nonflood-related functions.24 Water rushes through a break in an artificial levee in Monroe County. reservoirs created by dams may cover fertile farmland. This may simply involve clearing a channel of obstructions or dredging a channel to make it wider and deeper. the gradient and hence the velocity are both increased. building these structures also has significant costs and consequences. (Photo by James A. Groundwater: Water Beneath the Surface Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Groundwater Groundwater is one of our most important and widely available resources. Although dams may reduce flooding and provide other benefits. useful forests. such as providing water for irrigated agriculture and for hydroelectric power generation. Observations on the land surface give an impression that Earth is solid. and channelization is sound floodplain management. Since the early 1930s. These solutions are expensive and often give people residing on the floodplain a false sense of security. The idea is that by shortening the stream. Of course. Sedimentation behind a dam means that the volume of its reservoir will gradually diminish. The program has been somewhat successful in reducing the height of the river in flood stage. Channelization Channelization involves altering a stream channel in order to speed the flow of water to prevent it from reaching flood height. because the river’s tendency toward meandering still exists. During the record-breaking 1993 Midwest floods. appropriate zoning regulations can be implemented to minimize development and promote more appropriate land use. the river has been short- ened more than 240 kilometers (150 miles). preventing the river from returning to its previous course has been difficult. many artificial levees could not withstand the force of the floodwaters. In all.1). and the impressions people gain from these subsurface openings are often misleading. Many reservoirs are also major regional recreational facilities. The reason is that groundwater is hidden from view except in caves and mines. deltas and floodplains downstream erode because they are no longer replenished with silt during floods (see Box 5. However. Illinois. This view is not changed very FIGURE 5. reducing the effectiveness of this flood-control measure. Sections of many weakened structures were overtopped or simply collapsed. A Nonstructural Approach All of the flood-control measures described so far have involved structural solutions aimed at “controlling” a river. dams trap sediment. dams. Building a dam is not a permanent solution to flooding. Another alteration involves straightening a channel by creating artificial cutoffs. the larger discharge associated with flooding can be dispersed more rapidly. Therefore. Finley/AP/Wide World Photos) River Break in Levee . Large dams can also cause significant ecological damage to river environments that took thousands of years to establish.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Today. the U.

and industry.294 Water vapor in the atmosphere 14. . groundwater contamination due to human activities is a real and growing threat in many places. groundwater represents the largest reservoir of freshwater that is readily available to humans.000 0.004 Total 28. The Importance of Groundwater Considering the entire hydrosphere.S. however.000 14. is 40 percent of the water for irrigation. Groundwater is also an equalizer of streamflow.200 0. is a vast quantity. In the United States. It is in these tiny openings that groundwater collects and moves. the largest volume occurs as glacial ice. groundwater deposited the limestone decorations.549 Soil moisture 83. more than 94 percent is groundwater. Groundwater was responsible for creating these sinkholes in a limestone plateau north of Jajce. Rather.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 135 Groundwater: Water Beneath the Surface much when we enter a cave and see water flowing in a channel that appears to have been cut into solid rock. The dissolving action of groundwater created the cavern. this small percentage. wells and springs provide water for cities. Later.000 0. most of the subsurface environment is not solid at all. groundwater is the source of about 40 percent of the water used for all purposes (except hydroelectric power generation and power-plant cooling).158 Lakes and reservoirs 155. overuse of this basic resource has caused serious problems. Nevertheless. a large percentage of precipitation soaks in and then moves slowly underground to stream channels.000 0. or all of Earth’s water. many people believe that groundwater occurs only in underground “rivers. Groundwater is thus a form of storage that sustains streams FIGURE 5.00 Source: U.200 100.25). groundwater is important as an erosional agent. with slightly more than 14 percent of the total.000. Without question. The dissolving action of groundwater slowly removes soluble rock. Groundwater is the drinking water for more than 50 percent of the population. including streamflow depletion. Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 2220. allowing surface depressions known as sinkholes to form TABLE 5. and increased pumping costs.253. However. 135 B.000 84. It includes countless tiny pore spaces between grains of soil and sediment. 1987. Much of the water that flows in rivers is not direct runoff from rain and snowmelt. these spaces add up to an immense volume. When the oceans are excluded and only sources of freshwater are considered. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Table 5. Its value in terms of economics and human well-being is incalculable. (Photo by Jerome Wyckoff/Animals Animals/Earth Scenes) A. the significance of groundwater becomes more apparent.2 Fresh Water of the Hydrosphere Parts of the Hydrosphere Volume of Fresh Water 1km32 Share of Total Volume of Fresh Water (percent) Ice sheets and glaciers 24. Lincoln County. livestock.000. when ice is excluded and just liquid water is considered. only about six-tenths of 1 percent occurs underground.25 A. Clearly. Groundwater’s Geological Roles Geologically. (Photo © David Muench) B. In some areas. A view of the interior of Three Fingers Cave. and provides more than 25 percent of industry’s needs.” But actual rivers underground are extremely rare. In reality. crops.2 contains estimates of the distribution of freshwater in the hydrosphere.945 Groundwater 4. Because of such observations.049 River water 1.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. as well as creating subterranean caverns (Figure 5. In addition. plus narrow joints and fractures in bedrock. Together. Worldwide. Second in rank is groundwater. land subsidence. stored in the rocks and sediments beneath Earth’s surface. New Mexico.

below the water table. About how much of a river’s flow is contributed by groundwater? In one study of 54 streams in all parts of the United States. a much larger percentage of the water soaks into the ground.26). reaching its highest elevations beneath hills and decreasing in height toward valleys (Figure 5. the nature of the surface materials. Instead. Distribution Some of the water that soaks in does not travel far. the analysis indicated that 52 percent of the streamflow was contributed by groundwater. the intensity of the rainfall. some returns to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpiration. When we observe water flowing in a river during a dry period. By contrast. because it clings too tightly to rock and soil particles. if rain falls steadily and gently on more gradual slopes composed of materials that are easily penetrated by water. The area above the water table where the soil. however. Conversely. We examine wells more closely later in the chapter.26). Several factors contribute to the irregular surface of the water table. its shape is usually a subdued replica of the surface. One important influence is the fact that groundwater moves very slowly. varies considerably both in time and space. new supplies of rainwater are usually added often When rain falls. .qxd 136 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 136 Running Water and Groundwater Students Sometimes Ask . the water pressure is great enough to allow water to enter wells. Because of this. However. water tends to “pile up” beneath high areas between stream valleys. Lakes and streams generally occupy areas low enough that the water table is above the land surface. sediment. The groundwater contribution ranged from a low of 14 percent to a maximum of 90 percent. Water that is not held as soil moisture percolates downward until it reaches a zone where all of the open spaces in sediment and rock are completely filled with water. thus permitting groundwater to be withdrawn for use. This is the zone of saturation.26 This diagram illustrates the relative positions of many features associated with on steep slopes underlain by subsurface water. Influential factors include the steepness of the slopes. Water within it is called groundwater. and rock are not saturated is called the unsaturated zone (Figure 5. it indicates that the water table is right at the surface. because it is held by molecular attraction as a surface film on soil particles. This last path is the primary source of practically all subsurface water. It is crisscrossed by roots. voids left by decayed Aquitard Main water table Unsaturated zone Zone of saturation . it is water from rain that fell at some earlier time and was stored underground. . Groundwater is also a major source of water for lakes and wetlands. The water table is rarely level as we might expect a table to be. and the remainder soaks into the ground. impervious materials will obUnsuccessful Perched viously result in a high perwell water table Successful centage of the water running well Spring off. When you see a wetland (swamp). this water cannot be pumped by wells. This near-surface zone is called the zone of soil moisture. and the type and amount of vegetation. Distribution and Movement of Groundwater Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Groundwater roots. Some water also evaporates directly back into the atmosphere. and animal and worm burrows that enhance the infiltration of rainwater into the soil. Although a considerable amount of water can be present in the unsaturated zone. these water “hills” would slowly subside and gradually approach the level of the valleys.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. If rainfall were to cease completely. The amount of water that takes each of these paths. Soil water is used by plants in life functions and transpiration. some of the water runs off. Heavy rains falling FIGURE 5. The upper limit of this zone is known as the water table. during periods when rain does not fall.

are composed of tightly interlocking crystals so the voids between grains may be negligible. the degree of sorting. A typical rate is a few centimeters per day. The energy that makes the water move is provided by the force of gravity. A typical rate is about 15 meters per year (about 4 centimeters per day). and soil contain countless voids or openings. Nevertheless. Water table Stream Aquitards and Aquifers Impermeable layers that hinder or prevent water movement are termed aquitards 1aqua = water. and in sedimentary rocks. sediment. Voids most often are spaces between sedimentary particles. Factors Influencing the Storage and Movement of Groundwater The rate of groundwater movement is highly variable. clay’s ability to store water can be great. curving paths toward the zone of discharge. lake. Variations in porosity can be great. but also common are joints. Where sediments are poorly sorted. in times of extended drought. such as sand or gravel. the permeability of a material. The smaller the pore spaces. Thus. Most igneous and metamorphic rocks.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Sands and gravels are common examples. the greater the water pressure.2). In contrast. Although some water takes the most direct path down the slope of the water table. is also very important. Permeability Porosity alone cannot measure a material’s capacity to yield groundwater. Groundwater Movement The movement of most groundwater is exceedingly slow. or spring. Sediment is commonly quite porous. water moves from areas where the water table is high to zones where the water table is lower (see Box 5. and open spaces may occupy 10 to 50 percent of the sediment’s total volume. Thus. Other causes for the uneven water table are variations in rainfall and permeability from place to place.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 137 Distribution and Movement of Groundwater 137 enough to prevent this. water cannot move at all. Students Sometimes Ask . and enter through the bottom of the channel. This is easily explained: The deeper you go into the zone of saturation. The pores must be connected to allow water flow. In these rocks. Two factors are especially important: porosity and permeability. interconnected openings. faults. Per- . One method of measuring this movement involves introducing dye into a well. How fast does groundwater move? meable rock strata or sediments that transmit groundwater freely are called aquifers (“water carriers”). owing to its high porosity. Rock or sediment may be very porous yet still not allow water to move through it. Some paths clearly turn upward. The looping curves may be thought of as a compromise between the downward pull of gravity and the tendency of water to move toward areas of reduced pressure. . If the spaces between particles are too small. For example. the porosity is reduced because finer particles tend to fill the openings among the larger grains. the water table may drop enough to dry up shallow wells. This means that water usually gravitates toward a stream channel. the slower the groundwater moves.27 shows how water percolates into a stream from all possible directions. The nature of subsurface materials strongly influences the rate of groundwater movement and the amount of groundwater that can be stored. . Aquifers are important because they are the water-bearing layers sought after by well drillers. and vesicles (voids left by gases escaping from lava). Groundwater moves by twisting and turning through small. the looping curves followed by water in the saturated zone may be thought of as a compromise between the downward pull of gravity and the tendency of water to move toward areas of reduced pressure. we say that clay is impermeable. Porosity Water soaks into the ground because bedrock. These openings are similar to those of a sponge and are often called pore spaces. from pore to pore. FIGURE 5. cavities formed by the dissolving of soluble rock such as limestone. its ability to transmit a fluid. which is the percentage of the total volume of rock or sediment that consists of pore spaces. how they are packed together. Clay is a good example. much of the water follows long. The quantity of groundwater that can be stored depends on the porosity of the material. but its pore spaces are so small that water is unable to move through it.27 Arrows indicate groundwater movement through uniformly permeable material. have larger pore spaces. larger particles. In response to gravity. Therefore. Pore space depends on the size and shape of the grains. tard = slow2. the amount of cementing material. fractures must provide the voids. Figure 5. and they must be large enough to allow flow. the water moves with relative ease. The time is measured until the coloring agent appears in another well at a known distance from the first. as well as some sedimentary rocks. Thus. apparently against the force of gravity.

Today. the greater the pressure difference between two points). when groundwater circulates at great depths. However.000 such springs. Among the experiments carried out by Darcy was one that showed that the velocity of groundwater flow is proportional to the slope of the water table—the steeper the slope. Springs h1 .000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Springs. for here is water flowing freely from the ground in all kinds of weather in seemingly inexhaustible supply but with no obvious source. and A is the cross-sectional area of the aquifer. and if it rises to the surface.26. K A1 h 1 . d Many geological situations lead to the formation of springs because subsurface conditions vary greatly from place to place. When the permeable bed (aquifer) outcrops in a valley. Another situation that can produce a spring is illustrated in Figure 5. Here an aquitard is situated above the main water table. Springs such as the one in Figure 5. the water in hot springs is 6–9°C (10–15°F) warmer than the mean annual air temperature for the localities where they occur. After the . Geysers Geysers are intermittent hot springs or fountains in which columns of water are ejected with great force at various intervals. Darcy also discovered that the flow velocity varied with the permeability of the sediment—groundwater flows more rapidly through sediments having greater permeability than through materials having lower permeability. particularly in the east. we know that the source of springs is water from the zone of saturation and that the ultimate source of this water is precipitation. and d is the horizontal distance between the two points (Figure 5. d K is the coefficient that represents hydraulic conductivity. d. h 2is the elevation of a second point.h2 .h 22 d . In the United States alone. To determine discharge (Q)—that is. The water of some hot springs in the United States. there are well over 1. Temperatures in deep mines and oil wells usually rise with an increase in depth averaging about 2°C per 100 meters (1°F per 100 feet).B The hydraulic gradient is determined by measuring the difference in elevation between two points on the water table 1h1 . however. h1 . and it is in the west that igneous activity has been most recent. the great majority (over 95 percent) of the hot springs (and geysers) in the United States are found in the west. The water-table slope is known as the hydraulic gradient and can be expressed as follows: Wells h1 d h1 – h2 h2 hydraulic gradient = Where h 1is the elevation of one point on the water table. Wells are used to determine the height of the water table. The reason for such a distribution is that the source of heat for most hot springs is cooling igneous rock. it becomes heated. a spring or series of springs results. This factor is known as hydraulic conductivityand is a coefficient that takes into account the permeability of the aquifer and the viscosity of the fluid. is heated in this manner. which we call a spring. a portion accumulates above the aquitard to create a localized zone of saturation and a perched water table. Whenever the water table intersects the ground surface.B). Therefore.h22 divided by the distance between them.2  UNDERSTANDING EARTH Measuring Groundwater Movement The foundations of our modern understanding of groundwater movement began in the mid-nineteenth century with the work of the French scientist-engineer Henri Darcy. Where FIGURE 5. the faster the water moves (because the steeper the slope. Hot Springs By definition. a natural flow of groundwater results. the water may emerge as a hot spring. often rising 30 to 60 meters (100 to 200 feet).28 form when an aquitard blocks the downward movement of groundwater and forces it to move laterally.h2 is the hydraulic gradient. As water percolates downward. are not confined to places where a perched water table creates a flow at the surface. The fact that springs were (and to some people still are) rather mysterious phenomena is not difficult to understand. This expression has come to be calledDarcy’s law . the actual volume of water that flows through an aquifer in a specified time—the following equation is used: Q = Water table Hydraulic gradient = h1 – h2 d Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Groundwater Springs have aroused the curiosity and wonder of people for thousands of years.qxd 138 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 138 Running Water and Groundwater BOX 5.

a well must penetrate far below the water table. Following the eruption. the water is under great pressure because of the weight of the overlying water. It emits as much as 45. termed drawdown. How they operate is shown in Figure 5. including New Zealand and Iceland. Therefore.29 shows a wintertime eruption of Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. water must attain a temperature of nearly 230°C (450°F) before it will boil. For example.000-foot) water-filled chamber. This loss of water reduces the pressure on the remaining water in the chamber. FIGURE 5. followed by the amount used by homes in cities and rural areas. perhaps the most famous geyser in the world. which erupts about once each hour. cool groundwater again seeps into the chamber. (Photo by Marc Muench/David Muench Photography. The level of the water table may fluctuate considerably during the course of a year. decreases with increasing distance from the well. dropping during dry seasons and rising following periods of rain. (Photo by Michael Collier) jet of water ceases.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. the Icelandic word geysa—to gush—gives us the name geyser. Figure 5. the cone of depression is negligible.) . In fact.28 Spring flowing from a valley wall in Arizona’s Marble Canyon. At the bottom of the chamber. one of the world’s most famous geysers.000 gallons) of hot water and steam about once each hour.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 139 Wells 139 Wells Sculpturing Earth’s Surface  Groundwater The most common method for removing groundwater is the well. Geysers are also found in other parts of the world. The heating causes the water to expand. at the bottom of a 300-meter (1. with the result that some is forced out at the surface. when wells are used for irrigation or for industrial purposes. a hole bored into the zone of saturation (see Figure 5. usually with a thundering roar. A portion of the water deep within the chamber quickly turns to steam and causes the geyser to erupt. More than 65 percent of the groundwater used each year is for this purpose. roughly conical in shape.29 A wintertime eruption of Old Faithful. Geysers occur where extensive underground chambers exist within hot igneous rocks. it is heated by the surrounding rock. and the cycle begins anew. This great pressure prevents the water from boiling at the normal surface temperature of 100°C (212°F). As relatively cool groundwater enters the chambers. The use of wells dates back many centuries and continues to be an important method of obtaining water today. to ensure a continuous supply of water. known as a cone of depression (Figure 5. a column of steam rushes out. Whenever a substantial amount of water is withdrawn from a well. Industrial uses rank a distant second. Wells serve as small reservoirs into which groundwater moves and from which it can be pumped to the surface. Inc. This effect. By far the single greatest use of this water in the United States is irrigation for agriculture.30. the withdrawal of water can be great enough to create a very wide and steep cone of depression that may substantially lower FIGURE 5. However.000 liters (almost 12. which lowers the boiling point. the water table around the well is lowered. The result is a depression in the water table.31). For most small domestic wells.26).

31 A cone of depression in the water table often forms around a pumping well. Before heavy pumping Dry well Dry well Con e B. Heating causes the water to expand. After heavy pumping of n ssio pre e d Lowered water table . Site of new high-capacity well Well Well Water table A. The rapidly expanding steam forces the hot water out of the chambers to produce a geyser. If heavy pumping lowers the water table. C. Outflow Steam Steam T I M E Steam Heat flow B. and the cycle starts anew.qxd 140 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 140 Running Water and Groundwater FIGURE 5. with some being forced out at the surface. The loss of water reduces the pressure on the remaining water. The empty chambers fill again. Groundwater enters underground caverns and fractures in hot igneous rock. some wells may be left dry. B. Some of the water flashes to steam. A.30 Idealized diagrams illustrating the stages in the eruption cycle of a geyser.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. where it is heated to near its boiling point. thus reducing its boiling temperature. Geyser eruption Empty chambers Heat flow C. FIGURE 5. Water table Cavern Warm ash and lava flows Heat flow A.

If water is first charge. Can this actually be done? and below the aquifer must be present to prevent the water from escaping. to say the least. may be considered Flowing ea the area of recharge. For such a situation to occur. water that fell in central Wisconsin years encountered at 30 meters of depth. ful” examples of water dowsing occur in places where water In Figure 5. because at would be hard to miss. In some areas. On a different scale. in some wells. Artesian Wells #1 Pressure surfa ce #2 Aquitard Aquifer Aquitard Recharge area Nonflowing artesian well Pressure surface Pressure surface Flowing artesian well Environmental Problems Associated with Groundwater As with many of our valuable natural resources. In this manner. the pressure created by the classic method. Most “successaquifer). sometimes overflowing at the surface. the bottom of the “Y” were no friction. the pipes r artesian well a the confined aquifer. friction reduces Geologists and engineers are dubious. a flowing artesian well is created (Well 2. Illinois. In a region of adequate rainfall and fathis location the pressure surface is below ground level. The water tower. When vorable geology. water does not rise on its own. it is difficult to drill and not find water! the pressure surface is above the ground and a well is drilled into the aquifer. city Nonflowing artesian well water systems may be consid(water must be pumped from ered examples of artificial artepressure surface to surface) sian systems (Figure 5. . the water in the well would rise to the level is supposed to be attracted downward. . If there forth over an area. it remains at that level. Figure 5. In South Dakota. Figure 5. the greater the friction and the less the rise of water.  Groundwater Artesian systems act as conduits. Artesian springs also exist. into which water is pumped. However.32): (1) Water is confined to an aquifer that is inclined so that one end is exposed at the surI have heard people say that supplies of groundwater can be face. but when from the recharge area (area where water enters the inclined dowsing is exposed to scientific scrutiny. Well 1 is a nonflowing artesian well.32). However. In deserts. artesian springs are Sculpturing Earth’s Surface sometimes responsible for creating an oasis. and (2) aquitards both above located using a forked stick. ago is now taken from the ground and used by communities fluctuating perhaps a meter or two with seasonal wet and many kilometers to the south in FIGURE 5.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 141 Artesian Wells 141 the water table in an area and cause nearby shallow wells to become dry. dry periods.31 illustrates this situation. Not all artesian systems are wells.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. such a system brings water eastward across the state from the Black Hills in the west. groundwater is being exploited at an increasing rate. it fails.32 Artesian systems occur when an inclined aquifer is surrounded by impermeable beds. a person holding a forked stick walks back and weight of the water above will force the water to rise. of the water at the top of the aquifer. water rises.32. overuse threatens the ground- . Case the height of this pressure surface. Students Sometimes Ask . transmitting water from remote areas of recharge great distances to the points of disIn most wells. When water is detected.” In the When such a layer is tapped. and the ge r a ch faucets in homes the flowing e R artesian wells. In such situations groundwater may reach the surface by rising along a natural fracture such as a fault rather than through an artificially produced hole. The term artesian is applied to any situation in which groundwater rises in a well above the level where it was initially encountered. Such an aquifer is called a confined aquifer. The greater the distance histories and demonstrations may seem convincing. where it can receive water. two conditions usually exist (Figure 5.33). What you describe is a practice called “water dowsing.

for it is continually replenished by rainfall and thick layers of loose sediments. Then. water levels dropped at a much faster rate C. water caused by excessive pumping is pumped from the ground faster than it is replenished. But in some regions. The High Plains extend from the western Dakotas south to Texas. the ground may also sink when water is pumped from wells faster than natural recharge processes can replace it. Still other localities are concerned with the possible contamination of their groundwater supply. this is an important agricultural region. Groundwater depletion has been a concern in the High Plains and other areas of the West for many years. groundwater has been ground subsides because the weight of the overburden packs the sediment grains more tightly together. (Photo by Michael Collier) occurred in the San Joaquin Valley of California (Figure SD MN WY 5. The High Plains. This aerial view shows circular crop fields irrigated by center tively loose sediment. but the problem is not confined to this part of the country. In such instances. water levels in the aquifer recovered and subsidence ceased. This important agricultural region relies heavily on irrigation. than during the previous B. However. and 1977.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151.” Even if pumping were to cease immediately. This time. because of the importation of OK surface water and a decrease in TX groundwater pumping. HowMexico ever. Groundwater provides more than 190 billion liters (50 billion gallons) per day in support of the agricultural economy of the United States. water supply. the amount of water available to recharge the aquifer is significantly less than the amount being withdrawn. The reason is a vast endowment of groundwater that makes irrigation possible through most of the region. and continues to be treated as a nonrenewable resource. groundwater appears to be an endlessly renewThis effect is particularly pronounced in areas underlain by able resource. (Photo by James L. Amos/Corbis/Bettmann) example in the United States C. A classic pivot irrigation systems in semiarid eastern Colorado. In other places. the melting snow. Increasing demands on groundwater resources have overstressed aquifers in many areas. FIGURE 5. depletion of groundwater has been severe. B. it would take thousands of years for the groundwater to be fully replenished. the largest aquifer in the United States.34). ation Form ala all Og ROC KY MOUNTAIN S Treating Groundwater as a Nonrenewable Resource .qxd 142 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 142 Running Water and Groundwater Water tank Pressure surface (level to which water will rise) Water is pumped into tank Well Pressure moves water through pipe FIGURE 5. Under these circumstances. it can be said that the groundwater is literally being “mined. Where this occurs. In some agricultural regions.33 City water systems can be considered to be artificial artesian systems. not just in arid and semiarid regions. Here an extensive agricultural economy is largely dependent on irrigation. Despite being a Many areas can be used land of little rain. surface subsidence can result from natural processes related to groundwater. Land subsidence due IA to groundwater withdrawal NE began in the valley in the mid1920s and locally exceeded CO KS NM 8 meters (28 feet) by 1970. For many. The source of most of this water is to illustrate land subsidence the Ogallala formation. Land Subsidence Caused by Groundwater Withdrawal As you will see later in this chapter. during a drought in 1976 A.34 A. heavy groundwater pumping led to renewed subsidence. In some parts of the region where intense irrigation has been practiced for an extended period. provides one example (Figure 5.35). groundwater is being of groundwater from relatreated as a nonrenewable resource. As water is withdrawn. groundwater withdrawal has caused the ground and everything resting upon it to sink. a relatively dry region that extends from South Dakota to western Texas.

Many other examples of land subsidence due to groundwater pumping occur in the United States and elsewhere in the world. or cavernous limestone) have such large openings that contaminated groundwater may travel long distances without being cleansed. it may become purified through natural processes. because of the reduced storage capacity caused by earlier compaction of material in the aquifer.200 square miles) of irrigable land—one half of the entire valley—were affected by subsidence.S. as well as farm wastes and inadequate or broken sewer systems. was extensive. more than 13. For purification to occur. In all. In the contiguous 48 states. Does land subsidence caused by groundwater withdrawal affect a very large area? According to an estimate by the U.36A. . FIGURE 5. Water table Well 2 delivering clean water Contaminated water Septic tank . it is substantial. The harmful bacteria can be mechanically filtered by the sediment through which the water percolates. Geological Survey.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 143 143 Environmental Problems Associated with Groundwater Students Sometimes Ask . Although the contaminated water has traveled more than 100 meters before reaching Well 1. Well 1 delivering contaminated water Contaminated water Septic tank Cavernous limestone A. destroyed by chemical oxidation.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. bridges. the area amounts to approximately 26. and wells. particularly in areas where aquifers provide a large part of the water supply. As the discharge from the septic tank percolates through the permeable sandstone. sewage. the water flows too rapidly and is not in contact with the surrounding material long enough for purification to occur. (Photo courtesy of U. One common source of groundwater pollution is Permeable sandstone B. Geological Survey) period. For example. including highways.35 The shaded area on the map shows California’s San Joaquin Valley. The marks on the utility pole in the photo indicate the level of the surrounding land in preceding years. and/or assimilated by other organisms. however.000 square miles)—an area about the same size as the state of Massachusetts! San quin Joa e Va ll y CA FIGURE 5. coarse gravel. Its sources include an ever increasing number of septic tanks.36 A. B. This is the problem at Well 1 in Figure 5. In this case.S. it is purified in a relatively short distance. Between 1925 and 1975 this part of the San Joaquin Valley subsided almost 9 meters because of the withdrawal of groundwater and the resulting compaction of sediments. If sewage water that is contaminated with bacteria enters the groundwater system. . Water table Groundwater Contamination The pollution of groundwater is a serious matter.400 square kilometers (5. extremely permeable aquifers (such as highly fractured crystalline rock. water lines. the water moves too rapidly through the cavernous limestone to be purified.000 square kilometers (more than 10. the aquifer must be of the correct composition. Damage to structures.

handiwork are limestone caverns. CarlsAs rainwater oozes through the refuse. or toxic. some have spectacular dimensions. meaning about 17. such as joints and bedding planes. 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 144 Following removal of the tainted water. but process. Here acidic groundwater follows lines of of polluted water might be very large. These include widely soluble material that is then carried away in solution. Capitol Building. cause soluble rocks. a Caverns wide array of chemicals and industrial materials may leak The most spectacular results of groundwater’s erosional from pipelines. water comes in contact with limestone. and enough height to accommodate the U. the treated water or other freshwater is pumped back in. and even if the source weakness in the rock. The openings tities of carbonic acid. These are two potential sources of groundwater contamination. there are relatively few solutions.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. Because groundwater movement is usually slow. dissolved by the groundwater is eventually discharged into Once the source of the problem has been identified and streams and carried to the ocean. timeconsuming.37). One chamber in the water table. storage tanks. This fact is key to understanding how caverns and sinkholes form. polluted water is sometimes pumped out and treated. By this time. The Geologic Work of Groundwater Groundwater dissolves rock. In the United States alone Some of these pollutants are classified as hazardous. This is the least costly and easiest solution. relatively small. a groundwater supplies (Figure 5. the dissolving process slowly creates cavities solved.36B).000 caves have been discovered. In fact. Rossotto/The Stock Market) face. (Photo A square kilometers of Earth’s surby Roy Morsch/The Stock Market.37 Sometimes agricultural chemicals A. and pesticides. the problem is not time passes. in some cases. explosive. Although most are that they are either flammable. BeB. As of contamination is removed immediately. yet the movement of the water is slow enough to allow the air and from decaying plants. polluted At Mammoth Cave. To accelerate this sional features.qxd A. Figure 5. like the caverns in which they reside. the most effective solution to groundwater contamination is prevention. it will mix with the groundwater and conCarlsbad Caverns has an area equivalent to 14 football fields taminate the supply.S. Photo B by F. it may dissolve a vabad Caverns in southeastern New Mexico and Mammoth riety of potential contaminants. and holding ponds. the carbonic acid reOther sources and types of contamination also threaten acts with calcite in the rocks to form calcium bicarbonate. Most natural water contains this weak between sand grains are large enough to permit water moveacid because rainwater readily dissolves carbon dioxide from ment. the most common practice is simply to abandon Certainly the features that arouse the greatest curiosity for the water supply and allow the pollutants to be flushed away most cavern visitors are the stone formations that give some gradually. and it may be risky because there is no way to be certain that all of the contamination has been removed. the water can sometimes be purified after but is quite easily dissolved by water containing small quantraveling only a few dozen meters through it. These are not eroaquifer must remain unused for many years. used substances such as highway salt. Limestone is nearly insoluble in pure water meable sandstone. Although the sources of groundwater contamination and gradually enlarges them into caverns. eliminated. contamierns extends for more than 540 kilometers (340 miles). corrosive. Material that is are numerous. when the aquifer is composed of sand or pererosional agent. underlie millions of way into the groundwater. fertilizers that are spread across the land surface. it is here that groundwater carries on its important role as an Conversely. nation is sometimes discovered only after drinking water has Most caverns are created at or below the water table in the been affected and people become ill. If the leached material reaches Cave in Kentucky are famous examples. In addition. Therefore. and materials leached from landfills B. This process is costly. when groundample time for its purification (Well 2. Clearly. the volume zone of saturation. but the caverns a wonderland appearance. the aquifer is allowed to recharge naturally or. . landfills. find their limestone. the total length of interconnected cavwater might go undetected for a long time. especially FIGURE 5.

the water is forced to flow and deposit along the outside of the tube. A. Formations that develop on the floor of a cavern and reach upward toward the ceiling are called stalagmites (Figure 5. “Live” solitary soda-straw stalactites. FIGURE 5. and a hollow limestone tube is created. In either case. Given enough time. named for the Krs region in Slovenia where such topography is strikingly developed. Nevada. The water supplying the calcite for stalagmite growth falls from the ceiling and splatters over the surface. Deposition occurs as a ring around the edge of the water drop. stalagmites do not have a central tube and are usually more massive in appearance and more rounded on their upper ends than stalactites. perhaps the most familiar are stalactites. New Mexico.) depositional features. As drop after drop follows. some of the dissolved carbon dioxide escapes from the drop and calcite begins to precipitate. Karst Topography Many areas of the world have landscapes that to a large extent have been shaped by the dissolving power of groundwater. Often the hollow tube of the soda straw becomes plugged or its supply of water increases. These icicle-like pendants hang from the ceiling of the cavern and form where water seeps through cracks above. Of the various dripstone features found in caverns. These cave deposits. Lehman Caves. Great Basin National Park.38A). As a result. Inc. Water then moves through the tube. each leaves an infinitesimal trace of calcite behind. contributes a tiny ring of calcite. The stalactite just described is appropriately called a soda straw (Figure 5. Chinese Theater. however. the deposition of dripstone is not possible until the caverns are above the water table in the unsaturated zone. As deposition continues. and falls to the cav- ern floor. karst landscapes occur . lowering the water table as the elevation of the rivers drops.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. They are created by the seemingly endless dripping of water over great spans of time.38B). In the United States. Stalagmites grow upward from the cavern floor. As soon as the chamber is filled with air. This commonly occurs as nearby streams cut their valleys deeper. the conditions are right for the decoration phase of cavern building to begin.38 A. When water reaches air in the cave. are also commonly called dripstone. (Photo by Tom Bean) B. Although the formation of caverns takes place in the zone of saturation. a downwardgrowing stalactite and an upward-growing stalagmite may join to form a column. an obvious reference to their mode of origin. Such areas are said to exhibit karst topography. Carlsbad Caverns National Park. (Photo by David Muench Photography. remains suspended momentarily at the end. the stalactite takes on the more common conical shape.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 145 The Geologic Work of Groundwater 145 B. The calcium carbonate that is left behind produces the limestone we call travertine.

When solution features exist depicted in Figure 5. A. 135). arid Some regions of karst development exhibit landscapes and semiarid areas do not develop karst topography because that look very different from the sinkhole-studded terrain there is insufficient groundwater.39 Development of a karst landscape. Kenis riddled with interconnected caves and passageways. disturbance to the rock. sink In addition to a surface pockmarked by sinkholes. the depresSinking sions created in this manner stream are steep-sided and deep. With the passage of time. In the limestone areas of Florida. groundwater percolates the surface.40. Alabama. Typically. Such a situation is clearly the case in Springs Collapse Figure 5. In these situations. This tucky. caverns grow larger and the number and size their fate. tower karst. Tennessee. they may represent a serious geologic hazard. simply. It table then flows through caverns C. and central and northern Florida (Figure 5. Generally. for exonly isolated remnants as in Figure 5. bris. Solution When they form in populous Sink holes valley areas. C. karst regions characteristically show a striking lack of surface drainage (streams). Little Sinking Creek. As Figure 5. p.41. the limestone immediately below the soil is Sinking T dissolved by downward-seepstream I ing rainwater that is freshly M Sink E charged with carbon dioxide. Collapse of caverns and coalescence of sinkholes form larger.25B.qxd 146 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 146 Running Water and Groundwater sands of these depressions varying in depth from just a meter or two to a maximum of Sink holes more than 50 meters. cavern collapses under its own weight. creating small lakes or ponds.39. Solution activity creates and enlarges caverns at ally short.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. until it finally reaches the water table. The names of such and below the water table. there are literally tens of thoutype of karst topography forms in wet tropical and . solution activity may remove most of the limestone from the area.41 shows. ample. During early stages. One striking example is an extensive in such regions. Some develop gradually over many years without any physical Limestone A. southern Indiana. including poring Branch. Following a rainfall. sinkholes can also Water form suddenly and without table Sinking warning when the roof of a stream B. Each Figure 5. In the Mammoth of sinkholes increase. B. they are likely to be remnants of a time when region in southern China that is described as exhibiting rainier conditions prevailed. runoff is quickly funneled beWater low ground through sinks. and southern Indiana. In this view. Eventually. the term tower is approKarst areas typically have irregular terrain punctuated priate because the landscape consists of a maze of isolated with many depressions called sinkholes or. leaving Cave area of Kentucky. By contrast. Where streams do exist at FIGURE 5. their paths are usuthrough limestone along joints and bedding planes.39). and Sinkin many areas that are underlain by limestone. sinks (see steep-sided hills that rise abruptly from the ground. Some sinkholes become plugged with clay and detions of Kentucky. holes These depressions are usually not deep and are characterized by relatively gentle slopes. Water table Sinkholes commonly form in one of two ways. there is Sinking Creek. sinkholes are well developed and surface streams are streams often give a clue to funneled below ground. flat-floored depressions.

Other tropical areas of advanced karst development include portions of Puerto Rico. The two general types of base level (the lowest point to which a stream may erode its channel) are (1) ultimate base level and (2) temporary. leaving only these residual towers. size. For example. and roughness of the channel. The processes involved in the hydrologic cycle include precipitation. Powered by energy from the Sun. Two types of alluvial channels are meandering channels and braided channels. and northern Vietnam. Streams deposit sediment when velocity slows and competence is reduced.41 One of the best-known and most distinctive regions of tower karst development is the Guilin District of southeastern China. base level. Drainage basins are separated by imaginary lines called divides. evaporates such as gypsum and salt (halite) are highly soluble and are readily dissolved to form karst features. Inc. Waltham/Robert Harding World Imagery) subtropical regions having thick beds of highly jointed limestone. frequently measured in cubic feet per second). and along the bottom of the channel (bed load). discharge. . Chapter Summary  The hydrologic cycle describes the continuous interchange of water among the oceans. and continents. Karst development is more rapid in tropical climates due to the abundant rainfall and the greater availability of carbon dioxide from the decay of lush tropical vegetation. and the stream’s discharge (amount of water passing a given point per unit of time. This results in sorting. Here groundwater has dissolved large volumes of limestone.  River systems consist of three main parts: the zones of erosion. which include natural levees. depth. . In addition. water’s force increases fourfold. atmosphere.  The factors that determine a stream’s velocity are gradient (slope of the stream channel). including sinkholes. Most streams carry the greatest part of their load in suspension. Competence increases as the square of stream velocity. (Photo by St. Florida.  Streams transport their load of sediment in solution (dissolved load). A stream’s ability to transport solid particles is described using two criteria: capacity (the maximum load of solid particles a stream can carry) and competence (the maximum particle size a stream can transport). Petersburg Times/Liaison Agency. or local. runoff (water that flows over the land rather than infiltrating into the ground). Lowering base level will cause a stream to . infiltration (the movement of water into rocks or soil through cracks and pore spaces). western Cuba.  The land area that contributes water to a stream is its drainage basin. and transpiration (the release of water vapor to the atmosphere by plants). and disappearing streams.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. as floodplain deposits. karst development can occur in other carbonate rocks such as marble and dolostone.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 147 FIGURE 5. Running water is the single most important agent sculpturing Earth’s land surface. and as deltas or alluvial fans at the mouths of streams. evaporation. shape. Stream channels are of two basic types: bedrock channels and alluvial channels. The extra carbon dioxide in the soil means there is more carbonic acid for dissolving limestone. and velocity increase. while width. The bed load moves only intermittently and is usually the smallest portion of a stream’s load. and deposition.40 This small sinkhole formed suddenly in 1991 when the roof of a cavern collapsed. This latter situation is termed evaporite karst. Stream deposits are called alluvium and may occur as channel deposits called bars. so if velocity doubles. Rapids and waterfalls are common features. transportation. Most often. caves. in suspension (suspended load). Students Sometimes Ask . it is a global system in which the atmosphere provides the link between the oceans and continents. C. destroying this home in Frostproof.) FIGURE 5. Any change in base level will cause a stream to adjust and establish a new balance. the gradient and roughness of a stream decrease downstream. the process by which like-sized particles are deposited together. (Photo by A. Bedrock channels are most common in headwaters regions where gradients are steep. Much of the dissolved     load is contributed by groundwater. Is limestone the only rock type that develops karst features? No.

as well as channelization.qxd 148       CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 148 Running Water and Groundwater downcut. 132) discharge (p. Common drainage patterns produced by streams include (1) dendritic. 118) drainage basin (p. 129) base level (p. it becomes heated. 117) saltation (p. 124) aquifer (p. When a stream has cut its channel closer to base level. 129) bar (p. Flood-control measures include the building of artificial levees and dams. whereas raising base level results in deposition of material in the channel. 120) groundwater (p. and (3) contamination by pollutants. groundwater represents the largest reservoir of freshwater that is readily available to humans. 122) distributary (p. 122) transpiration (p. The quantity of water that can be stored depends on the porosity (the volume of open spaces) of the material. 125) natural levee (p. 144) competence (p. (2) land subsidence caused by groundwater withdrawal. 138) gradient (p. and/or abandoned bends. 123) cone of depression (p. expands. 137) aquitard (p. Floods are triggered by heavy rains and/or snowmelt. 120) dissolved load (p. Geologically. Groundwater is also an equalizer of streamflow. 136) well (p. Streams that flow upon floodplains often move in sweeping bends called meanders. 125) porosity (p. 123) settling velocity (p. 128) geyser (p. Karst topography exhibits an irregular terrain punctuated with many depressions. Groundwater is water that occupies the pore spaces in sediment and rock in a zone beneath the surface called the zone of saturation. Materials with very small pore spaces (such as clay) hinder or prevent groundwater movement and are called aquitards. The permeability (the ability to transmit a fluid through inter-      connected pore spaces) of a material is a very important factor controlling the movement of groundwater. 137) radial pattern (p. 125) delta (p. 136) hot spring (p. and erosion produces a flat valley floor. 138) stalactite (p. 132) runoff (p. 124) spring (p. and some water quickly changes to steam. 126) bed load (p. 127) suspended load (p. 118) flood (p. sediment. 129) dendritic pattern (p. 125) capacity (p. 136) water table (p. which could involve creating artificial cutoffs. its energy is directed from side to side. 145) stalagmite (p. Widespread meandering may result in shorter channel segments. If it rises. 137) point bar (p. 123) sinkhole (sink) (p. Many scientists and engineers advocate a nonstructural approach to flood control that involves more appropriate land use. 117) infiltration capacity (p. 129) zone of saturation (p. 139) evapotranspiration (p. Geysers occur when groundwater is heated in underground chambers. 129) oxbow lake (p. 139) yazoo tributary (p. or floodplain. Wells. 125) cutoff (p. called oxbow lakes. 145) stream valley (p. When groundwater circulates at great depths. 132) alluvium (p. Artesian wells occur when water rises above the level at which it was initially encountered. 132) floodplain (p. 125) permeability (p. 119) meander (p. 136) . 145) laminar flow (p. 119) unsaturated zone (p. Springs occur whenever the water table intersects the land surface and a natural flow of groundwater results. and rock are not saturated. 129) divide (p. 118) drawdown (p. the dissolving action of groundwater produces caves and sinkholes. 117) incised meander (p. As a resource. 137) artesian well (p. (3) rectangular. (2) radial. The unsaturated zone is above the water table where the soil. The source of heat for most hot springs and geysers is hot igneous rock.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. 117) trellis pattern (p. and (4) trellis. The upper limit of this zone is the water table. called cutoffs. Most caverns form in limestone at or below the water table when acidic groundwater dissolves rock along lines of weakness. 139) cut bank (p. 138) hydrologic cycle (p. causing the geyser to erupt. called sinkholes. 132) turbulent flow (p. Sometimes human interference can worsen or even cause floods. Aquifiers consist of materials with larger pore spaces (such as sand) that are permeable and transmit groundwater freely. 146) sorting (p. 122) braided stream (p. the water may emerge as a hot spring. Some of the current environmental problems involving groundwater include (1) overuse by intense irrigation. 128) infiltration (p. openings drilled into the zone of saturation. such as joints and bedding planes. 141) backswamp (p. 123) cavern (p. withdraw groundwater and create roughly conical depressions in the water table known as cones of depression. 118) karst topography (p. Key Terms alluvial fan (p. 132) rectangular pattern (p.

Briefly explain what happened in the San Joaquin Valley of California as the result of excessive groundwater withdrawal. Calculate its new gradient.2)? If glacial ice is excluded and only liquid freshwater is considered. Suppose that the stream mentioned in Question 3 developed extensive meanders so that its course was lengthened to 500 kilometers. Briefly describe the formation of a natural levee. Describe two ways in which sinkholes are created. What is the source of heat for most hot springs and geysers? How is this reflected in the distribution of these features? 23.000 meters above sea level and travels 250 kilometers to the ocean. 20. In what three ways does a stream transport its load? 7. What problem is associated with the pumping of groundwater for irrigation in the southern part of the High Plains? 25. (b) Streams form a branching. Geologically.qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 149 Review Questions 149 Review Questions 1. two conditions must be present. Describe two situations that would trigger the formation of incised meanders. List and briefly describe three basic flood-control strategies. Differentiate between stalactites and stalagmites. 17. Define base level. Which would be most effective in purifying polluted groundwater: an aquifer composed mainly of coarse gravel. How is this feature related to backswamps and yazoo tributaries? 14. 22. 19. groundwater is important as an erosional agent. What percentage of freshwater is groundwater (see Table 5. When the discharge of a stream increases. (a) Streams diverge from a central high area such as a volcano. about what percentage is groundwater? 18. other than natural levees. 26. 9. Name the main river in your area. Are bedrock channels more likely to be found near the head or near the mouth of a stream? 10. Under what circumstances does each form? 15. If you were to explore an area that exhibited karst topography. Differentiate between competency and capacity. or cavernous limestone? 27. 24. that are associated with streams. treelike pattern. How do porosity and permeability differ? 21. 29. A stream starts out 2. what part of its load will settle to the bottom of the jar? What portion will remain in the water? What part of a stream’s load would probably not be present in your sample? 8. Name another significant geological role of groundwater. For what streams does it act as base level? What is the base level for the Mississippi River? The Missouri River? 12. what features might you find? This area would probably be underlain by what rock type? Name a region that exhibits such features. . What is meant by the term artesian? In order for artesian wells to exist. Identify the pattern. what happens to the stream’s velocity? 6. (c) A pattern that develops when bedrock is crisscrossed by joints and faults. sand. Once precipitation has fallen on land. 11. Define groundwater and relate it to the water table. If you collect a jar of water from a stream. Describe a situation that might cause a stream channel to become braided. What are some drawbacks of each? 16. How do these features form? 28. what paths are available to it? 2. Describe the movement of water through the hydrologic cycle.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. How does meandering affect gradient? 5. What are the three main parts (zones) of a river system? 3. What is its average gradient in meters per kilometer? 4. Each of the following statements refers to a particular drainage pattern. List these conditions. Distinguish between an aquifer and an aquitard. 13. List two major depositional features.

Written and developed by Earth science instructors.prenhall. and (d) hydrosphere (land) to the hydrosphere (ocean).. the construction of a dam). Visit http://www. List the process(es) involved in moving water through 3. and biosphere in determining the quantity and quality of groundwater available for human consumption. Over the oceans. Briefly describe the consequence(s) of each of these interactions. 4. Describe the role of the atmosphere.com/tarbuck and click on the cover of Earth Science 12e to find: • • • • Online review quizzes Critical thinking exercises Links to chapter-specific Web resources Internet-wide key term searches .g. (b) atmosphere to the geosphere. yet sea level does not drop. Why? tween humans and the hydrologic cycle (e.qxd 150 CHAPTER 5 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 150 Running Water and Groundwater Examining the Earth System 1. this site will help improve your understanding of Earth science. Online Study Guide The Earth Science Website uses the resources and flexibility of the Internet to aid in your study of the topics in this chapter.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. evaporation exceeds precipitation. (c) biosphere to the atmosphere. geosphere. List at least three specific examples of interactions be- the hydrologic cycle from the (a) hydrosphere to the atmosphere. 2.

qxd 03/30/11 07:15 PM Page 151 GEODe: Earth Science 151 GEODe: Earth Science GEODe: Earth Science makes studying more effective by reinforcing key concepts using animation. video.000200010270575680_R1_CH05_p114-151. and practice quizzes. narration. . in- teractive exercises. A copy is included with every copy of Earth Science 12e.